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30 Things I Didn’t Know Before I Started Blogging

Blogging comes with a steep learning curve.

When you start there’s a thousand things you don’t know.

When you’ve been blogging for 18 months you realise there’s a thousand more.

I can’t quite decide when I started blogging. I got my first peek into this mysterious world when my son wrote a blog during a year abroad.

I decided to do the same when I went on a 3 month trip to Mexico. It wasn’t full-on blogging as I might define it now - I wasn’t linking, or reading others, or commenting, or writing to be read other than by friends and family.

But I got the bug, for sure. The itch, the demand to write, to capture your experience - from major political upheaval to moment of wonder looking out on a country kitchen garden - within the frame of a blog post.

I kept going when I got back, opting for a blog based site to promote my coaching work (Coaching Wizardry), running two blogs for a while when I started here at Confident Writing.

I could chart a long journey from those two starting points to where I am now… and where I still want to go, but in thinking about this question I realised how little I knew about blogging when I started - whichever starting point I take.

Here are 30 things I didn’t know when I began.

1. The meaning of SEO (in a previous world it was Senior Executive Officer)

2. What RSS meant

3. That there was a language called HTML

4. How to upload images (still struggling)

5. The difference between categories and tags (ditto)

6. The relative merits of different blogging platforms

7. What a feed reader was

8. The point of a sidebar and how to keep one tidy

9. What plugins or widgets were

10. How to take part in a group writing project

11. What a meme was, and what to do if you were tagged

12. The importance of interlinking your posts

13. How to link out (with intention, or indeed at all)

14. How to write for readers who scan

15. The benefits of writing to a theme

16. How to apply mind-mapping to blog writing

17. How to define a blog (still working on it)

18. How to write snappy headlines (ditto)

19. That there were conversations going on around the web

20. That social media existed

21. That blogging was deliciously addictive

22. That blogging would take me to Chicago

23. That people had ideas about blog comment etiquette

24. That debates raged around pages opening in new windows

25. That I might one day need a comment policy

26. How terrifying and satisfying it could be to write as a guest author

27. How to write an about page

28. The difference between trackbacks and pings (anyone?)

29. That people said authority could be measured by Technorati… until Technorati lost their authority

30. How writing numbered lists could save your bacon (over and again)

I could go on.

I’m sure there are another 30 - and probably another 30 after that.

And you know what the beauty of it is?

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know.

And if you are new to blogging or getting ready to start blogging: guess what?

It still doesn’t matter.

What does?

An open mind. A desire to share. A willingness to learn.

The delight of blogging, for me, is that we learn as we go.

We learn, share and teach each other day in, day out.

How to do something differently or better.

How to improve the way we organise our material. How to dig a little bit deeper or reach a little bit higher.

If you knew all the answers when you started it wouldn’t be blogging as we know it - however imperfectly defined - and it wouldn’t be nearly such fun.

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  1. Sharon Hurley Hall says:

    Great entry, Joanna. I’m still working on a few items on your list myself. I’m intrigued by your point about applying mind mapping to blogging. Got a post on the subject to share?

    Sharon Hurley Halls last blog post..The Freelancing Life

  2. Scott McIntyre says:

    Very timely list for me, Joanna!

    Still exploring the ‘art of blogging’ but heading in the right direction… good preparation is key to me :-)

    It’s great to learn from the example of someone who has successfully set up a blog. And someone who’s survived the trauma of a platform move.

    Thank you for taking the time to pass on your tips.

  3. Brad Shorr says:

    Blogging opens up a whole new world, doesn’t it, Joanna? Tags are one of those murky topics I’d like to learn more about. Maybe we could do a “tag team” post on them one day … :)

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Knowledge Nuggets from Word Sell Conversationalists

  4. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Sharon, I think blogging, like life, is a constant work in progress :-) Thanks for the project - it was a fun challenge, and good to look back on the distance travelled. Here’s the post I wrote on mind-mapping - based on Chris Garrett’s approach

    Scott, indeed, and I did think of you as I wrote it. I agree preparation can help - but I think if I’d prepared too much it might have turned into a barrier to getting started. It’s definitely something you learn by doing

    Brad, indeed, and lots of delicious conversations. Thanks for the encouragement to take part in this one. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting tagged nearly as much as I did in my first year of blogging, though I’m not sure why that should be. Jeanne Dininni’s advice on how to handle a tag helped me a lot, and stopped them feeling like a burden. Maybe this is one of the reasons I enjoy group writing projects - they’re more like an invitation than a ‘should’


  5. Ribeezie says:

    There’s A LOT of stuff that we’re going to be unfamiliar with when we venture out into the blog-o-sphere and that’s ‘Ok!” It really is… The best you can do to prepare is to do as the Nike slogan says: “Just Do It!”

    You’ll meet friends along the way, your writing will be less stressed and more fun, and next thing you know, you’re getting better and better & learning more and more :-P

    Writing has to be fun, relaxed… That’s when the best comes out of you! So start blogging and have some fun; that’s what I say! :-)

  6. Karen Wallace says:

    Whew Joanna, what a list! I didn’t know any of that either … and still don’t know more than half of it :) But it’s all about learning as you go, and the journey… what I love is that you don’t actually HAVE to know any of that stuff to get started.

    Love the references back to your archives - there really is some pure-gold in there…

    Karen Wallaces last blog post..Our duty to be happy

  7. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe

    Joanna, thanks for sharing this list! It made me think a lot about my blogging experiences. I knew a bit about the technical side, having done some work with putting up websites and caring for their content. But what I didn’t know and had to learn was the writing aspect: how to write when blogging. Developing a certain style, matching pictures and text together. Learning by doing, yes, and learning from the blogging community, and especially learning from you - I still am and it’s an amazing experience!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Rhapsody in Green

  8. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Ricardo, I agree, absolutely, and would say ‘just do it!’ to anyone who was thinking about dipping their toes into the blogging water.

    Karen, thanks. It was fun looking back at what I’ve learned and reflecting on the stuff I still want to crack… Archive dipping is good too - it’s so surprising to find some of the gems we’ve written and forgotten about.

    Ulla, learning from doing and learning from the blogging community - that’s it in a nutshell. Thank you for being so open and constructive in your own learning and teaching as part of that community


  9. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, that is a great list. I smiled, nodded and groaned in agreement. One major thing I did not know before blogging was how it would open the door to a whole new world of supportive relationships! I would not have met wonderful people like you had it not been for blogging. That alone has made the experience priceless!

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Karen, what a wonderful perspective. I had no idea we could form these kind of friendships either - life changing conversations that would alter us all for ever (for the better). All the more reason to encourage others to ‘just do it!’. Just jump in, the water’s lovely


  11. Liz Strauss says:

    Great list. Great new home. Your list reminded me of so many things I value. I especially like the point of sidebar . . . I’m smiling.

    Liz Strausss last blog post..The Mic is On: We’re Talking about YOUR Ultimate Retreat!

  12. SpaceAgeSage says:

    Sometimes when the myriad of things I need to do and learn about blogging overwhelm me, I am reminded of that scene in the old movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame, when the bells are ringing and Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) is holding his ears in pain, and saying “The Bells! The Bells!” I just update it with him saying, “The Blog! The Blog!”

    SpaceAgeSages last blog post..In the eye of the beholder …

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  14. Robyn McMaster says:

    What a surprise to visit Confident Writing and to discover that you’ve moved. I’ll have to change my link to you site. Now that was one of the first things I learned as a blogger - that there are links and they help you recognize other people in the blogosphere.

    Joanna, the scary thing about your list is that there are some things there that I’ve yet to learn and I’m hoping that doesn’t matter either. :-)

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Why Are Some Leaders More Inventive than Others?

  15. Robyn McMaster says:

    How does one have a picture instead of a design image?

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Why Are Some Leaders More Inventive than Others?

  16. Jeanne Dininni says:


    Part of the delight of blogging is knowing that there are so many other wonderful bloggers out there who are ready and willing to help us “learn as we go”! Where would we be without their support?

    Excellent post!

    P.S. Love your new site!

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Liz, thanks for popping by! Glad you liked the list. My real new home is working out well too - you’ll love it next time you’re over :-)

    Space Age Sage - that’s priceless! I think I’ll run that thought through my head whenever I’m suffering from blogging overwhelm too

    Robyn, thanks for the link. You’re right, linking out is so important, especially in the early days. Although there might be a lot of technical things you’ve not learned yet, you know the things that do matter - like generosity, helpfulness, a willingness to learn, offering encouragement and help to others. I know you helped me a lot when I first started. Those are the things that really matter :-)

    To get your picture showing here you need to sign up your e-mail and a photo with gravatar - only takes a minute. Lots of bloggers have this on their sites now so it’s worth doing if you want your picture to show up next to your comments

    Hi Jeanne, thanks for the feedback on the site and yes absolutely, where’d we be without the support and each others help (and to be honest, what would be the point, and the fun, if we weren’t doing it together?)


  18. Jeanne Dininni says:

    How very true, Joanna! There would be very little point-and even less fun-if we weren’t doing it together!

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