Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 12 Top Things I Learned from the A-Z Blogging Challenge

Wow, the A-Z Blogging Challenge has been over for a week, and I'm just now recovered enough to add some of my thoughts to the list of other bloggers' reflections that you can read by clicking here.  

As mentioned on my sidebar, my theme for the challenge was "My Keeper Books," all the books I can't imagine living without. It was a particularly poignant theme for me, because I'm currently living without them! As soon as the challenge was over, I began packing for another move, and I started with my books. After two years of condo-living, I'm off on a new adventure to an unfinished town-house in serious need of renovation. But that's all for another post; today's is about the top 12 things I learned from the challenge. Here goes:
  1. My chosen theme of "keeper books" gave me the opportunity to really examine what books I own and why. It helped me to make some choices for the upcoming move, leaving me with a small pile of "non-keepers" that went off to Friends of the Library for resale.
  2.  I learned that using a set theme for any creative project is an excellent idea to help you stay on track. Whether it's choosing a theme such as "Love conquers all" for your novel, or painting a series of still life pictures only in yellow and green featuring  koala bears, a theme keeps you focused and productive.
  3. For the majority of my A-Z posts I made digital collages to serve as illustrations. Stretching to include a visual "post" along with the text each day was a bonus that kept me feeling even more committed to the challenge.
  4. I learned that I could write a post without stressing about it. Because I had a deadline to adhere to, I found I was writing more naturally and with a lighter heart--despite the time pressure. Weird.
  5. And with that, somehow, I found the time to post every day! Proving to myself that I will always have the time to write, draw, and create every day if I want it badly enough.
  6. I also found I could be much more open with what I wrote about. When I first started my blog several years ago, my intention was for it to be a "how-to-write" site, an extension of my creative writing workshops and classes. But that often meant I would become overly-focused on the need to teach, leading to more stress: Was I clear in my instruction? Did I make the subject too difficult, or boring? Did I make the reader feel inspired or simply overwhelmed? It was a worry, but one that I've learned to set aside. My posts will still center on writing and creativity, but I plan to share more of my own journey and daily life into the mix as well.
  7. I met a lot of great bloggers. It was wonderful to visit, connect, follow, and comment on so many interesting and varied sites--sites I would never have found prior to the challenge. Can't wait to read more!
  8. Apologies for this rather negative "lesson" but I was astonished at how many blogs I couldn't read! It saddens me to say this, but it was such an important discovery and eye-opener for me. Many, many blogs I visited turned out to be too cluttered or too busy for me to read without getting a serious headache. Most of these had teensy-tinsy fonts on black backgrounds, and quite often with just a "hint" of the post, with no real indication of how to click onto the main body of the post to read what it was supposed to be about. With this was another problem I kept running into--blogs that I DID like very much had no way (at least that I could see) to follow them. So frustrating! In light of this, I hope my blog is easy for you to use and follow. If at any time you have trouble with any of it, please let me know.
  9. On the pleasant and easy-to-use blogs, however, (which were also the vast majority) I started to develop a much-improved habit of leaving comments. In the past I have been a terrible non-commenter, blaming my perpetual lack of time. What I learned to do over the month of the challenge was to simply set aside a few extra minutes each day so I could comment on whatever blog(s) I was visiting. It was a good plan and I hope to continue it.
  10. When I signed up for the challenge, one of my goals was to learn how to blog more frequently--and I certainly did, LOL. Now that the challenge is over, I don't think I will be blogging every day, but a schedule of every 4-5 days is manageable, and more frequent than my past posts of once a week.
  11. Blogging every day came close to being a daily meditation for me. I enjoyed that, and I may continue using my morning writing practice as a way to generate if not actual blog posts, at least the ideas and themes for them.
  12. Prior to the challenge, I kept hearing voices in my head--the nagging ones that come from agents, editors, publishers, etc. demanding that writers "blog, and successfully, too." I guess "successfully" means having a gazillion hits and followers, and a fan list from here to the moon. In other words, blogging was promotion and marketing and something to do with job performance and pleasing other people. The A-Z Challenge turned that all around for me. Now I feel blogging is about community and communication, and sharing what is important in your world. It's not about numbers, it's about conversation and helping each other where and when we can.  
Tip of the Day: One last thing about the challenge, and maybe the most important: I learned to take time off. Sundays were set aside as the "non-blogging" days, and I was amazed at how vital it was to follow that rule. So the next time someone tells you have to write "every day," guess what? They're wrong! Giving yourself necessary, scheduled breaks will help you maintain energy and enthusiasm for even the most challenging project. 

I want to thank the organizers of the challenge--as you can see, I learned a lot from them. I also want to congratulate everyone who completed the challenge. Wishing you an entire dictionary of future blog post ideas!

And we have a winner for the giveaway copy of OVERTAKEN!
Congratulations, and happy reading!


Lisa said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge! I also came across some hard-to-read blogs. Sort of makes you wonder WHY they like that set up!!

cleemckenzie said...

You did an amazing A to Z job! Keeper books was a perfect theme. This Reflections Post was a great follow up.

Thanks, BTW for the book. I'm taking June off to do a lot of reading.

Valerie Storey said...

Thank you, Lisa and C. Lee! Looking forward to reading more of your posts post-challenge!

Click said...

Congratulations on completing the challenge.