The first place I learned about the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was at the WriteOnSisters blog, and initially I was confused. In retrospect, I’m not sure exactly why I was confused, but it didn’t take me too long to figure it out, and once I did, I couldn’t resist. Having just recently (re-)launched my blog, it seemed like an excellent way to jump start my writing. I’d done National Novel Writing Month recently enough that having a month-long task felt really doable, and (bonus!) unlike NaNoWriMo, the A to Z challenge didn’t require that all the work be done during the challenge month itself.
So what did I learn? A ton, both about the mechanics of blogging and about myself as a writer and blogger.
One of the first things that I figured out was that pre-scheduling posts is a lifesaver. If I had an idea for a day, I wrote it and scheduled it and was done with it. It felt great. I could (and did) go back and tweak, but having a bunch of posts done in advance made all the difference. Another thing that made a big difference was creating checklists for myself. This is hardly a surprise, since I am a listmaker by long time habit, but for a challenge like this, and a newbie like me, a comprehensive checklist is critical for remembering all the little daily details. (Did you include the challenge link? Check! Check the slug? Done! Do you have the attribution link for that image? Got it!)
The other thing I did was to set up a document that had the reference and attribution links that I re-used. Otherwise I would be hunting them down daily, and that’s just annoying. I also learned to be careful about keeping source information for things that I wanted to save for future use. There’s nothing worse than having a picture or snippet that you love but you can’t remember (or find) the source.
On a more personal level, I learned just as much. Perhaps most importantly, I was reminded about how important it is to be a realistic judge of how long things are going to take. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, in addition to the A to Z Challenge, I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and had a fairly labor-intensive out of town work commitment for the last week of the month. Pre-scheduling posts eased this up a bit, but it was still probably too much. And however much I told myself that I didn’t have to finish both challenges, in my heart I knew I did have to. It was stressful, but in the end I was pleased with the work and the accomplishment.
All that did leave very little time to explore other people’s blogs, though, and that’s a real regret for me. On the more positive side, I unearthed a love of poetry that came as a real surprise. Although I definitely think of myself as a prose writer, the blogging format – for me, anyway – seems to lend itself more to shorter forms, including poetry. This was a very pleasant discovery. Another was how much I have enjoyed my forays into translation. I’ve been working for several years to improve my Spanish, and it turns out that translating Spanish poetry is a really challenging and enjoyable way to enhance that work.
In the last couple of weeks I have had a little time to start exploring other people’s blogs, and I look forward to doing more of that. There are definitely a few that I plan to stick with, and I look forward to finding even more. (Have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments.)
Will I attempt the A to Z challenge again next year? Probably. For one thing, I won’t have the weeklong work event at the end of the month, and hopefully I will be more efficient in both my blogging and my writing. Either way, though, I should probably give serious thought to choosing either the A to Z Challenge or Camp NaNo, rather than both.
(Reflection image via University of Washington Library on Flickr.)