“Calling yourself a guru while giving nothing but common knowledge advice on your blog irritates me. I don’t visit your site to learn something I already know – that everyone already knows.” ~ Stacey Roberts on ProBlogger
When I announced, several years ago, that I was going to create a blog, my friends and former colleagues applauded me for doing do, stating “you should after all you are THE GURU on that subject”, well it’s good to feel appreciated but I have never considered myself a guru on any subject, even those I consider I have an expert level knowledge of, the challenge being there is always someone who knows something you don’t. Then I also had another challenge, at a chance meeting I was told:
“When you write you should be authoritative on that subject and always offer a unique perspective.” ~ Harold Ekstein.
Pleasing all Perspectives?
There is the primary challenge, pleasing all your reader’s viewpoints at the same time, but it is true that trying to be fake, trying to be something you’re not cannot be a good idea. There are several types of article that any writer can create, including:
- A foundational piece (containing basic information people need to know about for this subject).
- Where to get the information you need (summarising sites where good information can be gleaned).
- ‘How-to‘ posts.
- “N” things you should know about…
- A discussion piece (which summarises the available thinking on the subject)
- A detailed post which explores options and makes recommendations about best course of action for a given situation.
- A critical piece (which dissects the views or writing of another person or concept).
A foundational post will simply contain basic information people need to know about the subject at hand, it provides a basic level of education to those that know nothing about the subject matter, it can be educational for certain readers, but as Stacey Roberts states “I don’t visit your site to learn something I already know” so you have to start out with a slightly different approach to what everyone else is writing otherwise your readers will not stay. The where to get information post is essentially one that helps your readers gain more knowledge, but does it in a way that explains when they are likely to gain from each site. “N” things to know about… is similar method used to summarise knowledge about a particular subject, readers love this type of post because it reminds them of things they should be doing but aren’t.
The “how to” article is a specific type of detailed post that will tell the reader how to do something – for example how to use a specific smart phone, the advantages of registering with a particular website, it will help the user understand the choices available, but probably not why certain options are or are not provided.
The discussion post will look at particular aspects of the subject and will provide a summary of all knowledge, not normally going into detail in any specific area, but it may be an introduction to several posts that go into specific details or critique certain theories. A detailed post will dissect one aspect and go into the details about what is possible, perhaps going beyond the simplified instruction of the how-to post, looking at why things happen, or perhaps why they don’t, perhaps a look at some of the theory behind the detail.
The critical piece will dissect the work of another writer (or group of writers), it allows you the ability outline your own theories in relation to other works published on the subject. It may show why specific methods may be considered weak or problematic, you can highlight those elements other writers have missed and highlight why they are of importance to solving the problem.
Each type of post brings a different type of reader to your site and this must be considered when your create each post. Sometimes you have to consider the prospect or reader that you are focusing on.
The Fake Guru
The problem of the “Fake” Guru is one that is common across the web today it is a case of people writing about subjects they have little or no practical experience of, they are simply regurgitating what they have read on another site, using different words. This raises the question of what is the difference between that and researching a subject thoroughly?
In questioning this I become very self conscious that I do a lot of research about the things I write about and at times am conscious of the fact that I push the boundaries of my personal knowledge. I am also aware that there is a difference between knowledge and opinion, truth is everyone has an opinion, even on subjects they know nothing about, it is complex at times to distinguish between opinion (especially well informed opinion) and practical knowledge.
It is true that with the aid of the Internet it is possible for any person to research any subject to a high level of detail and become knowledgeable of that subject, but there is a difference between how an expert talks and the person scraping the bottom of web to formulate their new post. The expert has a lifetime of experience to draw upon, they know the answer to the point in question and that will come to the point effectively and explain how it works or show it’s importance.
Ultimately it is easy to identify the fake guru, they are simply not convincing, they keep their writing vague and high level, furthermore they are, as Stacey Roberts is concerned, providing nothing but common knowledge. Being exceptional is always a challenge.
Place for the Novice Writer?
Is there a place for the non-expert in writing or blogging? This is a complex question as it is my belief that everyone has some expertise, they simply need to to a little soul searching to find out what that is. Everyone has some expertise, even if that is where to find the best shopping bargains or cracking a joke about items in the news. New writers have to find their niche (which may as yet be undefined).
The other challenge for new writers is about developing their writing style. When I first started blogging it was after a lifetime of writing corporate reports, so I knew how to write (or thought I did), little did I realise that blog writing required a different set of skills, such as story telling, hyperlinking, style and presentation, providing visual images to enhance the writing, expanding your vocabulary, adopting different writing styles, using Social Media for publicity.
The new writer must show they they are learning and improving as a writer and an important part of this is about researching your subject, staying up to date with market knowledge. Even-though they are a novice writer, their expertise on their specialist subject should still be evident through the words they use. The preparedness to grow as a writer is essential as none of us can be perfect first time around, writers know that first drafts are never published, editing is a skill the novice writer must acquire, they must be prepared to harshly critique their own work and get out the red pen and make all those necessary corrections.