What Do You Do When You
Run Out of Knowledge?

image of a sign saying S-O-T-P

Bloggers have a distinct disadvantage.

When someone hires an expert in — oh, let’s say marketing — that expert can dispense the same information she did for the last client.

And the client before that one. And the one before that.

Not bloggers. Blogging is about breaking down everything you know into bite-sized chunks so that people can learn it all over a period of time. If they look back through the archives, they can often see the entire breadth of your knowledge.

Then one day, your well runs dry.

This is a scary moment for any blogger. It’s not like running out of inspiration or having writer’s block. This is when you’ve said it all. Your blog contains absolutely everything you know.

And let’s be fair — it’s a lot of knowledge. But you simply don’t have anything new to say.

What do you do?

Go get yourself some new knowledge

I’m always amazed by how few people continue to educate themselves on their topic after they’ve become an acknowledged expert in it.

Hey, everyone knows me as the number one guy on naked mole rats! Clearly, I know everything there is to know!

But as an old coach of mine used to say, you’ll never know everything there is to know in your field of expertise, and there’s always something new to learn. People make new discoveries and innovations every day. You have opinions about those innovations. You agree or disagree with them. You try them or manage to take them a step further.

Of course, if you don’t find out what those discoveries and innovations are, you don’t have anything to say about it. No wonder you’re stuck for posts.

Actively pursuing new knowledge about your area of expertise has a side benefit: it provides more value for your clients. You may find the inspiration for a new ebook or web course to help newcomers understand and benefit.

New knowledge could be the next big thing for your business — if you go out and find it.

Doctors are one of the few professions actually required to update their knowledge of their field of expertise continually. If a doctor doesn’t know the latest innovation in surgery, his next patient might die from the lack of that knowledge. That’s a huge incentive for the doctor to always be learning and for the patient — and the medical board — to insist on that continual education.

No one is going to force you to attend conferences or read books or take courses, but you’ll be much more respected as an expert if you continually update your knowledge. Your client’s life may not be on the line, but their business, their financial goals, and their happiness probably is — at least, their happiness with your products and services.

Where can you find new knowledge?

Well, you may not have heard about this gizmo called the internet, but it’s pretty handy for that sort of thing. It seems silly to mention using the internet to upgrade your knowledge on an online blog, but shocking numbers of people don’t use it for this particular purpose — even those who practically live online.

Libraries are an awesome (and free) resource for new knowledge too, and so is your local bookstore. Go pick up some new literature and get someone else’s perspective on what you do.

Magazines and trade journals, of course, are terrific for more recent innovations and information. Find ones that focus on your area of expertise and stay on the lookout for new ideas that sound interesting or innovative. Once an article grabs your attention, go do some independent research on that topic and find new resources to pursue.

Actively pursuing new knowledge won’t just make you a better businessperson — though that’s reason enough right there. It’ll also pretty much guarantee that you’ll never run out of blog topics ever again.

About the Author: For new knowledge that makes you a better businessperson — and that helps you hit the bullseye of success for your freelancing career, check out Men with Pens — or better yet, grab the RSS feed here.

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Comments

  1. James, I’m a big Ray Bradbury fan, but my favorite book of his is his book about writing. Over and over, in different ways, he says “read things you’re not used to.” Apparently some of his own best breakthroughs came after reading an essay about beekeeping, or art, or anything other than what he was actually trying to work on.

    If there is a secret weapon to blogging longevity, my vote is for curiosity. Also, I’ve got an email coming to you this week that you’ll enjoy immensely:)

  2. Sometimes I feel like the more that I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know.

    Just don’t spend your time learning about things that don’t really make any difference.

  3. I would agree with Josh the curiosity goes a long way towards motivation to gather and share new information.

    There is always something to learn about everything… so much so, that at times it can be overwhelming.

    Maybe it’s not that people run out of knowledge, because as you mentioned there is always MORE knowledge but, perhaps it is that people run out of the desire to share more knowledge, they run out of fuel to commentate on whatever new knowledge is available… Just a thought.

    Great post!

  4. I agree you can never learn enough about your area of expertise. If you read enough blogs about your area of expertise you will find something that will peak your interest and make you want know a little more.

    People who dont read have no more advantages than people who cant read.

  5. There’s no doubt the key to coming up with new blog topics is acquiring new knowledge. Fuel is to car what knowledge is to new ideas. Or something like that.

  6. Liked the title very much,Knowledge ,there are a million topics in every topic,Take blogging for example again we can divide each topic from Anchor links to SEO ..

    Knowledge is alwasy there ,but people with enthusiasm,creativity,passion are running out,really happy to see a “out of box post ” .thank you James and Brian

  7. I ask questions and look under every stone for nuggets to write about. It’s still hard work, but it’s worth it because it gives you details to kick start your next piece.

  8. Reminds me of that saying “The day you know everything is the day you have prepared yourself for a world that no longer exist and has surpassed you.”

    But I guess under that theory your pen is never big enough huh James? LOL Always newer and bigger pens…

    Great post :)

  9. There’s a simpler alternative: just make stuff up.

    :-)

  10. It always astounds me how few bloggers seem to go to the local library. I chose my current home based on the fact that I could walk to the library!

    It’s been a huge source of information for my blogging, as well. I’ve reviewed books I’ve checked out, pulled together resource lists and even been inspired by small passages in big books.

  11. Nice post, James. Teachers are another group required to update their expertise regularly. In my previous life as a teacher, I valued opportunities (e.g., classes, workshops) to revitalize in the summer by being the learner instead of the teacher and interacting with others to get new ideas. Now I often rely on webinars as an easy way to supplement expertise, interact with talented professionals and discover new ideas from the questions participants ask.

  12. @Darren – My pen is… never big enough?

    *bursts out laughing*

    Dude. I think you just made my day. I am totally going to use that every single chance I get.

  13. James,
    As I was reading your post, I was asking myself, what is he talking about running out of knowledge. That’s the hazard you face when you read actively and interact with the words on the page as I do. I am a continuous learner and it’s interesting to note that I interviewed several highly accomplished people for my book and the common theme that kept on emerging is that you need to be focused, learn continuously and have passion to attain success.

    There are many resources out there that make learning easy. Earl Nightingale in his work often suggested that people read a book a week and Zig Ziglar talks about mobile learning, which is learning while commuting. With so many audio books, there is no reason for anyone not to read, they can read books that the family can all enjoy and discuss later.

    Many university professors have created educational videos for YouTube, and the iPod. We are living in an age where information is really at our fingertips. James, thank you for dealing with this topic. I often get ideas for my blog by reading other blogs and reading books, articles and so on. I had so much fun writing a blog post which was a response to one of The World’s Strongest Librarian’s (Josh Hanagarne) post.

    Magportal.com and magatopia.com are two great websites for articles. It’s good to read articles outside your field to get your creative juices flowing and if you love print magazines, you can get free subscriptions from tradepub.com.

    For anyone who is interested in some other resources, you can read my post Professional Development on a Budget http://theinvisiblementor.com/2009/08/21/professional-development-on-a-budget/. Lack of funds should not prevent anyone from learning and expanding their knowledge base, if that is what they truly want.

    Thank you! Avil Beckford @avilbeckford

  14. “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
    –Albert Einstein

  15. I’m a perpetual student, and it never ceases to amaze me how you can get the perfect idea for your next blog post or article from somewhere completely unexpected. Thank you for the reminder to keep on learning!

  16. Great points . one of the things I do is to comment on someone else’s briliance … I google a topic … pick a couple of key quotes, copy and blockquote them (and link them) … and add an intro and wrapup paragraph or two. Never fails!

  17. Anyone who does not consistently seek more knowledge is consistently going backward compared to those who do seek to learn.

  18. What Do You Do When You Run Out of Knowledge?

    That’s easy… you read another Copyblogger post! ;)

  19. I think curiosity and the quest for knowledge go hand in hand. It is also easy to stay interested in new developments when you are passionate about the core topic.

    So thanks for the great advice James, definitely not going to collect dust on my shelf.

  20. I agree that reading within your field and outside your field will provide more fodder for the blog. But I also recommend talking to readers and potential readers, clients and potential clients. Let me give you an example.

    A few years ago, I was conducting workshops on selecting the right publishing route for nonfiction writers. A potential attendee called and expressed interest, but she didn’t have a manuscript and didn’t know where to start. I realized that I had started offering information near the end of the process, getting published, and really needed to start at the beginning, creating the manuscript. So I developed a workshop called “Write that Book!” and it was a hit. From talking to a prospective attendee, I got a wonderful idea for a new focus on my business.

    The point is that as we gain expertise in our respective fields, we forget the basic questions and problems encountered by beginners. All that stuff becomes intuitive for us. We need to be reminded of those basic issues and then blog about them, or write ebooks or courses, or whatever. I tend to write books, myself.

    By the way, that workshop is now a trade paperback, e-book, and Kindle book called “Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process.” Details are available at http://quillifulpublications.com.

    So my advice is to talk to people, readers or whomever, and find out the questions they have at the beginning of their quest in your field that you’ve forgotten you ever had to deal with. And then take a tiny sliver of that issue and blog about it, one sliver at a time.

    Ta ta for now
    Katie Ploeger

  21. I really enjoy reading books all the time. All the time. Granted it’s easier if I’m reading something I’m truly interested in or something that pops out at me but I love reading.

    I rarely ever watch any TV. Who cares about TV when you have the Internet? Ok so TV is still nice every now and again but ultimately I love reading so gaining new information is not too difficult most of the time.

  22. Christopher with “Just make things up.” You are great. Are you married?

    Josh with “I’ve got an email coming to you this week that you’ll enjoy immensely.” There is a novel in that statement!

    Do I know everything? Nope. Do I let that stop me? Nope.

  23. Thanks for the posts and the ideas. I find one of the best ways for me to grow my blog and increase my knowledge is read books on my subject and then blog about the book. Great way for me to really cement the knowledge.

    Bill

  24. Strangely enough, I had this fear when I was just getting started with blogging. Now I know better. At the very least, I can go and pick a fight with another blogger. Just kidding!

    I can respond to other people’s blog posts, force myself to find relevant lessons from a movie or TV show (or yoga), write about my latest mistakes or triumphs (although mistakes are much more interesting)… the list is endless!

  25. Wow! More and more of these articles of late or echoing posts on my site!

    I’ll chalk it up to coincidence and that great minds think alike!

  26. I’ll chalk it up to coincidence and that great minds think alike!

    Sounds like a plan. I’ve been saying what this post says for over 4 years now, and then James comes in and makes it crystal clear and gets all the credit. ;)

  27. @Brian – Hey. Where do you think I get *my* inspiration from, eh?

  28. @James @Brian,

    OK, OK, so some of my article echo some of the posts on this site. Thought I’d found some unexploited niches on some of these themes, but Brian’s been so prolific as a thinker/writer that he’s beat me to the punch!

    How should bloggers set sail in popular memes without seeming redundant or inviting accusations of plagiarism?

  29. JudyAnn: Yes, happily.

  30. @Steve – That’s a good question.

    Typically I draw on my own personal knowledge, experience and perspective when I write. If I’m writing about something new that I’ve just read or learned, then I certainly have my opinions and thoughts about that piece, and I focus on that. By the time I get around to writing anything at all, whatever I’ve read is weeks past (sometimes months), and I couldn’t even tell you what the original piece said or looked like.

    There’s also the fact that I like to think I have enough rattling around in my own head that I don’t feel the need to take from others. :)

    And to give a bit more, thinking about this from my own blog writing perspective, I enjoy seeing my own work provoke thoughts and opinions in others. If someone reads my post and gets some inspiration about that, then great!

  31. I find it amazing that so many people have trouble finding information. Today with the internet you don’t even have to have an encyclopedia. Or better said we have an encyclopedia at our finger tips. The internet. And, of course, there is always the public library.

    Don McCobb

  32. P.S. –

    What I meant by “echoing” articles on my site:

    Free Learning Resources at Your Local Library:
    http://bit.ly/dgVoGd

    Blog to Learn:
    http://bit.ly/aEIcs7

    What’s an Autodidact?
    http://bit.ly/4w6wYu

    etc., etc.

  33. My big, secret weapon is to use books on CD. I keep a notepad in my car and instead of listening to music, I have about 400 different books in my car about every business topic on earth. When I get stuck for an idea, I just take the car out for a little “Automobile University”

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  34. I never really thought of that one. The thing I write about ( storage unit auctions) I have enough material for the next ten years. The more I right the more that I remember so it may be a different bag for me. Definitely something to think about. I guess you guys have been at this for quite some time!

  35. Ms. James: I think it’s important for bloggers (and other self-employed people) to realize that lifelong learning is part of business overhead, something that needs to be planned into your workday. In addition to giving you something fresh to say and keeping your expertise current, ongoing learning fans the flames of passion and engagement. Finally, I suggest people not limit themselves to learning in their own fields. Learning a language, reading in other fields, starting a new sport are all ways to shift perspective and refresh energy.

  36. Anybody worth reading long term grows intellectually so that we agree is akin to mutual back patting. People that don’t continually learn peter out and we don’t know them anymore. It’s a self correcting problem.

    I think there’s another problem (what I thought this post was about) but it wasn’t mentioned. I can only speak for myself but as a blogger grows intellectually, sure, there’s a population of readers who are keeping up with content but what of everyone else coming in mid-stream? What I mean is that the older content may be more appealing to newer readers because the newest material represents higher level understanding of the blogger that is lost upon new visitors. I don’t like to cover old ground but I need to. Not because I don’t stretch and lack material but because I always get new visitors. I would like to find a way to make revisiting old topics more palatable. Otherwise I just feel disingenuous regurgitating old stuff. Plus, older stuff kinds of bores me and I want to go in my own direction so it becomes a delicate balance to provide a service to the community without being jaundiced.

  37. I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert on many topics on the business of art (the focus of my blog) so I interview lots of experts in different fields, get great input and learn as much as my readers! It’s easy to get interviews, because all those experts love to talk about what they know!!

  38. You can sort of tell from the blogosphere that not many people read books any more. There are so many recycled ideas and bits of information (not to say that there are some really good stuff), and I hardly see books referenced for articles, unless it is Wikipedia. Anyway, I find that the fear of running out of ideas always happens way before it is even close to an issue. Just don’t think about it. :)

  39. There are so many topics to write about, it’s just finding a new angle in your niche. A new perspective. Something that will grab your readers and challenge them as well. What may be old to us, is new to someone else. Especially those that don’t want to go back 2 years and read previous posts. A refresher is always good.

  40. Most of the time, I use Google to search related topics. and some times, just play games!

  41. If you stay AWAKE… (ie present in the here and now), and look around you then there is NEVER an excuse for running out of knowledge.

    Everyday, everyone you interact with has something to teach you if only you are paying attention.

    Just like coming here and reading this post…

  42. Nice post James. I think the information on the internet is beyond what the humans can think of. We can never know everything there is to know about a subject if we continue to always search and explore what’s out there. Thanks for reminding us of this point.

  43. I think that Magazines and trade journals are the ultimate and absolute source of knowledge for getting latest knowledge and Ideas about blogging.

  44. I don´t want to get philosophical on this, but, thinking that we can know everything isn´t one of the biggest mistakes of the humanity ever?

    There is always something new to learn, to improve and to share, independently from your profession, hobbie or business. Knowledge can be know shared, transmited by many different ways, channels and that is what bloggers should improve and take advantage.

    I recommend Startups.com, an increasing Q&A business related social network where you can both share knowledge and ask for it!

    Hope to see you there!

  45. If you care, you dig deep into any of the many great resources that are available to us all.

    The internet.
    The Public Libraries
    Encyclopedias

    If you can’t find what you are looking for in any of these sources, you’re really out of luck.

    Here’s to knowledge!

    Don McCobb

  46. Sonia Simone :

    @Molly, absolutely — growing all those fabulous new neural connections by learning about something completely different can really open up our thinking. Plus it’s just really fun.

    @Brad, yeah, reading books is one of our ninja superstar secrets around here. :) It really is becoming rare!

    @Mick, very true, if you keep your eyes open and stay engaged, there’s always something new. Easier said than done at times.

  47. Great title for the article – really drew me in. It’s important to remember that information (which is available in abundance) and knowledge (which takes time to aquire) are not the same thing! You need knowledge (or wisdom) to determine which information is valuable.

  48. Excellent, excellent post! I have wondered about this myself…perhaps reassures me that as long as I’m willing to learn, I will never run out of things to write about!

  49. Find something good out of junk. I like to blog about improving websites. In that process I often look for a total junky site, and then force myself to find something they did well on it. Usually there is at least one thing. Then I write about it.

  50. “as long as I’m willing to learn, I will never run out of things to write about!”

    I think that’s very true. I find the best blogs are the ones where the writer seems to be exploring new ideas as they write, not unpacking all the old ideas they’ve accumulated over the years.

    *or she

  51. Great post James.

    One of the things I love about social media is that there is literally an endless well of knowledge available online for free. That is the essence of social media, sharing information and knowledge with people that you have built relationships with online.

    Social media is all about relationships and communication.

    Everyday I try and spend at least 30 minutes just hopping around various blogs to absorb as much knowledge as possible – I’ve found that my thirst is not able to be quenched as each new post I read creates a more insatiable desire for more!

  52. Great post! I have been studying my chosen profession since high school. i learn something new every day.

  53. Sam Chapman hit it right on – “Anyone who does not consistently seek more knowledge is consistently going backward compared to those who do seek to learn.”

    I don’t believe there is anyone out there who knows everything.

    I constantly strive to learn new stuff which explains my passion for buying into various courses and eBooks (really need to stop being so random!!)

    The point is, there is always something to learn in my opinion – no matter how successful you may be.

    James

  54. Great points. As a college student, I am starting to realize that graduation is just the beginning, not the end, of my education. It’s comforting to know that there is still a lot to learn, actually.

  55. This article truly spoke my mind. Every writer goes through this type of situation. It’s an universal thought process that has the ability to learn everyday. Beautifully written article.

    Thanks

  56. I often run from the conversation when someone asks about the knowledge beyond my abilities. This actually becomes a defect in writing, to escape from the reality of what we give.