Monday, May 9, 2016

A to Z Blogging Challenge Reflection (2016)

It's been over a week since the A to Z Blogging Challenge ended.  In that time, I've had some time to rest, recoup, and reflect on the experience.  

Participating and completing the A to Z Challenge reminded me a lot of when I participated and finished a half marathon several years back.  So much energy and focus went into the preparation and the execution of both tasks.  After I submitted my Z entry, I felt something similar to what I felt the day after I crossed the finish line, something that's been called the "Post Marathon Blues." Last Sunday morning, the day after the challenge concluded, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop, staring blankly at the screen thinking, "OK...  Now what?"  I'm happy to say, that I'm slowly acclimating back to the real world.

The organizers of the challenge ask that all participants, regardless of whether they finished it or not, compose a reflection post.  Here's mine.  I've organized it in a format similar to that of an article to help in making it an easier read.  I apologize for the length.

Why I Chose to Participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge
Because, in the most simple explanation, I love a good challenge.  Setting a goal and doing what it takes to see it through gives me much satisfaction and pleasure.  

To Theme or Not to Theme, That is the Question
I didn't choose a real theme year because it was my first attempt.  I honestly didn't know what to expect, so I just wanted to keep it simple.  Having one A to Z Blogging Challenge now under my belt, I'm not so sure I will chose a theme next year, that is - if I decide to participate again.

Benefits of Not Having a Theme
I really, really liked the freedom of posting whatever I wanted and not having to conform my writing to fit within a designated theme.  If I wasn't feeling a particular topic that I had pre-planned - it was no problem, I just made adjustments and went on.   

For example, for the letter H, I planned a post on my hometown, specifically about how  many things about my hometown are different from how I remember them in my mind.  It was about change.  Well, that post turned into a beast of an entry; it was long and I couldn't rein it in.  The night before it was to go live, I was frustrated and not happy with it.  A song came up on shuffle and I was inspired. I ditched the hometown post and composed H is for Hallelujah instead. It actually turned out way better than I would've ever imagined.  And, as of May 7, H is for Hallelujah was the second most viewed post on my blog.  

A day or two later, not wanting to waste all the time and energy I put into the initial post about my hometown, I re-channeled my efforts and focus and repurposed the hometown post as the poemM is for Mind's Eye.  This was my first attempt at poetry in YEARS.   Seriously, I think the last time I wrote anything poetic was 20 years ago when I was in college.

Another reason I liked not having a theme is that I didn't limit my posts to a certain type of audience.  There were several blogs I visited throughout the challenge in which the theme was something related to horticulture (plants), entomology (bugs), or literature featuring paranormal activity.  I don't really care for any of those topics nor do I have much to say on them.  However, to be a good blogger and to be polite, I made sure to leave a comment even though the blog topic held little or no interest to me.  Needless to say, I didn't go back to those blogs after the initial visit.  

*On the flip side, however, if I were into plants, bugs, or reading about ghosts, then I might have gone back for future visits.  I guess it could go either way.

Biggest Benefit of Participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge
As I mentioned before, setting a goal and seeing it through gives me an enormous amount of personal satisfaction.  However, I really think the biggest benefit I gained from this experience is that I stepped out of my comfort zone and posted poems, something that I've never really considered myself good at.   There's an saying that goes something like, "Growth can only happen when you step out of your comfort zone." and I honestly believe that.  Had it not been for this challenge, I might never have found myself in a position where I would even contemplated writing any poetry.  If you're interesting in reading them, I've linked them here:

Biggest Challenge of Participating in the A to Z Challenge
Time.  On the first day of the challenge, I had 8 posts already prepared and ready to publish on the designated days.  That's 31% or little less than a third. I honestly thought I had a good handle on things.  Oh, how I was mistaken!

I underestimated the amount of "free time" I had in the month of April.  At my job, April heralds in the beginning of the end (of the school year) and that's when all the craziness and chaos ensues.  My job responsibilities increased substantially last month, as they do every April, and fulfilling those responsibilities often required  additional hours after my work day had ended, which ate away at my "free time."  Factor in a trip to West Virginia, a trip Georgia, and finishing up Book Challenge by Erin 4.0 (I wasn't kidding when I told you that I love a good challenge), my free time for blogging was seriously diminished.

Things I'll Do Different Next Year (If I Participate Again)
  • Preplan and compose more entries earlier, especially for the hard letters - Q, U, V, X, and Z.  This will allow me to better balance my work and blogging time. 
  • Create and implement a better system for visiting new blogs.  I didn't do a very good job at visiting many fellow challengers'  blogs this year. I did visit some, but not as many as I would have liked.  I was really just doing the best I could to keep up with my blogging schedule, responding to comments left on my blog, and spreading some blogger love by visiting the blogs of those who had commented on my blog.

Will I Participate Again in 2017?
I honestly don't know.  I enjoyed the challenge, don't get me wrong, but right now I'm a little brain dead.  I'm not taking a hiatus from blogging or anything, but right now I'm truly enjoying not having to keep up with such an intensive blogging schedule as I did in April.  We shall see.  Time will tell.

A to Z Blogging Challenge Superlatives (As of 5.8.2016)

Blogger Love
  • Elliptical Man @ The View from the Third Floor.  E Man, as I call him, has a very unique view of the world and a gift at writing clever, unconventional poetry.
  • Robin @ Your Daily Dose.  Robin created a fun, interactive theme where she provided a word that started with that day's letter and readers were encouraged to participate by leaving a comment with a song title that contained that word.
  • Deena @ Deena's Days took her readers on a trip back in time to the wonderful Decade of Decadence - the 1980s.  It was a fun blast from the past!
  • T.  Powell Colton @ Journaling Woman blogged about Death by Oddity.  Hilarious!

Did you participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge?  What are your thoughts on the experience?  As always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. This year is my fourth year and I had so much fun. I've had a theme for three of those years and one plus is that if people like your theme they do tend to keep coming back :). Glad you enjoyed the challenge.
    Tasha's Thinkings

  2. Some great observations. I also had little or no theme other than A-Z. Normally I would agree with you about preferring no theme to allow me the freedom to blog on whatever came to mind. But as the challenge progressed, I found a theme emerging (sort of), and it really helped me focus and select topics - quite the opposite of what I experienced last time I did a challenge like this. I also visited many blogs that frankly either were of little interest or were phoning it in. But I left comments on most of these anyway, just to be neighborly. Will I go back? Probably not, but it was interesting seeing the variety and creativity out there in the blogosphere, and I've only just scratched the surface.

  3. I've never done one. Such dedication. Maybe I will do one.

  4. Great reflections post. I shall be posting my later this month. This was my second year.
    I can understand about not wanting to blog about one specific thing, but I also worry about being too random. Like all things, there are pluses and minuses. One thing I do like about a theme is people know what to expect, and those interested will return. Again, those not interested may not return. So you have to decide what works best for you. If you like challenges, the theme is great for the additional challenge. It's especially interesting to see how creative people can be with those letters in a specific theme.
    Myself, I went with the classic TV because it was a general enough theme, likely to hold most persons interest. Unless they hated TV and/or hated all things vintage or classic.

  5. I echo these sentiments. I've done the A to Z three years (though not last year). I've always had a theme. That first year I thought I was sooo prepared. I think I had posts written up to the letter "M." Oh boy. M arrived way too quickly and it was all downhill from there. I stuck it out, but I was burned out at the end. I didn't think I'd do it again. Then I came up with an easier way the second year (had all the posts down ahead of time) and still felt pretty worn by the end. This year was my best theme (in my own opinion, but I think the opinions of others, too). I'm still worn, but not AS worn, so that's something.

    I'm so glad you participated, found, my blog, and we became friends on this lovely medium. I'm still trying to follow through GFC, so don't give up on me. It's bound to start working correctly!!!

  6. What is funny... people think sometimes the hardest letters are the most difficult, but like you stated... make it up as you go along. the letters don't always have to make sense "Z" what I mean... We made it...Hope you had a great time, thank you for your Reflection!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2016]


    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood... is Nuts?

  7. This was my 3rd year and I've got a lot more harsh about not leaving comments if I could find nothing to connect or say about the post, as I try not to leave a generic "visiting from A to Z" without saying anything else at all... but I did leave some of those - I swing from thinking I should, so someone knows I've been to I shouldn't because I couldn't find anything to say...

    I didn't theme the 1st year, but have the last 2 years and think the focus helps me. Totally get though that if the theme doesn't grab then people are unlikely to come back, but hopefully we find the ones we love to visit time and time again!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

  8. I did the challenge without a theme last year and with a theme this year. I found a theme is much better for getting return visits because people know what to expect, but I did enjoy just winging it too. Congratulations on finishing!

  9. Thanks.

    I liked your 'A' post too.

  10. Finding your blog by beginning to read the participants reflections. This was my 4th year and realize how important a theme, if chosen, fits with the nature of the #Challenge. People visiting, quickly moving on, getting a general impression of what the blog is about. Writing an on-going "book" where a person visits half way through the alphabet, having no idea what is happening, seems better published another time. You hit on the #1 tip....prepare ahead!

    1. It's interesting that you mentioned the ongoing book, for I visited a couple of those myself and I was like, "Uh... I haven't a clue as to what's going on." I had forgotten about those until you mentioned it.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  11. This was my third year with the A-Z. The first year I didn't do a theme and I liked having the freedom to blog whatever hit me. The next two years I did a theme, which was great fun too. Last year I did Classic Rock (a Musical Journey of My Life) and this year I did Classic TV Show Theme Songs. I'm still trying to figure out what to do for next year and haven't decided, theme or no theme. I'm leaning toward theme though.
    I think the best way to get the most out of the challenge is to have all your posts prepared and already scheduled to post so you can spend your time on visiting other blogs and leaving comments, as well as responding to comments that people leave for you. Still, having everything scheduled, the Challenge takes a huge time commitment. But it's really fun and I love meeting new people, discovering cool blogs and making new friends.
    Congrats on completing the A-Z. Glad you had a good time with it. Great Reflections post!

    Michele at Angels Bark


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