Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that in April I participated in the A-Z Challenge.  This was a daily (except for most Sundays) blog post, using each letter of the alphabet.  I am a little hazy now as to why I originally decided to join the challenge but I did and now that I have had time to reflect on the month, these are my thoughts on the challenge.

1. It was a lot of work.  My normal posts are usually about one a week.  True, the A-Z posts tended to be shorter and generally about only one topic as opposed to my longer typical posts which can encompass the 2-3 books I am reading, a recipe or two and whatever gardening or creative activity I am involved in that week.  But there were a couple of days, especially early on when I was near the end of my busy day and remembered I had to post.  Some posts were easier to write (if it was a recipe or included references to past posts, for example) but some were difficult and time consuming (I seemed to struggle with ones that had multiple photos and ones about authors where I talked about multiple books).  It is hard to work 8+ hours, get all my chores and social activities in AND blog every day.  Just saying.

2. There were hundreds of blogs in this challenge, and we were to try to visit at least 5 a day. It was tough to keep up with the reading of the other blogs (see time management issues in previous point), reading new blogs, following the other blogs I liked, commenting on the blogs and reading the comments on my own blog. Whew!  That being said, I "met" a few fun bloggers.  I will post links to some of the new blogs I found during the challenge below.  There are also a lot of blogs that I couldn't get out of fast enough (they probably felt the same way about my blog).  I've determined that just because someone has a blog, does not mean that she/he and I have ANYTHING else in common. 

3. I felt like I was writing somewhat differently knowing that the audience was spreading beyond my family and friends.  Sometimes I found myself apologizing or warning about something I had written or written about.  When I mentioned this to a friend, she asked me if the people I was afraid of offending had apologized or warned me when reading their blogs.  They had not, so I felt a bit more free.  "It's my blog and I can rant if I want to" was one of my new mottoes.  Also, "I like what I like and if you don't like it, too, that is not my problem."

4. I was glad I had decided on my topics ahead of time.  It helped me to start thinking about what the post might be about (though some posts went off in a direction I didn't know they were going to take, much like my writing often does.  One example of this was Irises, which suddenly was more about free plants than it was about irises.).  It also helped me keep a fairly even balance between books/authors, plants/flowers, food, and creative pursuits. 

5. The challenge also challenged me to think about why I blog.  There seemed to be a big emphasis from the challenge organizers to read as many blogs as possible, comment on as many as you visited, respond to comments on my blog and visit the commenters' blogs in return, and in general to get my blog out there as much as possible to gain followers.  There was a statement from the organizers that one of their goals is to see each of the blogs in the challenge have at least 100 followers on their sidebar widget.  Well, I am at 15, though I know I have at least another dozen that don't "follow" the blog but do indeed follow the blog and read a lot of (if not all of) my posts.  They follow through Facebook or by checking the blog regularly for new posts.  I appreciate them as much as the followers listed on the sidebar.  So that was a bit of a tangent but back to me thinking about why I blog.  I blog because I like to.  I blogged back in 2003 when I was pretty sure it was only my mom reading my posts because I wanted to.  I like to write, I like to share recipes and books and other junk I am doing.  So I have this blog that I will continue to write even if no one ever reads it again. 

6. In case you are a geek like me and like statistics, here are some fun ones from the challenge.
  •   There were 606 viewings of my blog in April, and about 75 comments.  Since the beginning of the blog, there have been 1385 views. 
  • The post with the most views was N is for Nordic Sweaters and O is for O'Brien with 18.  It is the fifth most popular post of all time (see sidebar on left for other "popular posts").
  • Most of the traffic to the blog last month was from the A-Z Challenge, though visits from my Facebook link were frequent also.
  • Most visits were from the United States, but also a good amount from Canada (I've also discovered I like many Canadian bloggers - it must be a close kinship due to the shared border with Minnesota, or something.), and also some from UK, Trinidad/Tobago, Australia, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Philippines and Singapore.  I love the global reach! 
7.  Will I do the A-Z Challenge again next year?  Maybe.  Don't ask the woman in labor if she will have another child, right?  Maybe knowing what I know now, and thinking about how I might do it differently, I would attempt again.  Would you read it again if I did?

8.  Overall, I guess I am glad I did the challenge.  If nothing else, it got me posting regularly.  If only I could keep that up (seeing that the post prior to this one was a week ago, I don't know if the leopard is likely to change her spots).

And as promised, here are some blogs I found I like while participating in the challenge, as well as a couple of others I already followed before the challenge and really like as well.  Check them out.  Let me know what you thought of the A-Z Challenge and if you would like to see me do this challenge again or another one.

In Which We Start Anew - Full disclaimer - I am related to Jo - she is my cousin-in-law.  Ha-ha!  She is a hoot and has a way with words. 
Walnuts and Pears - Kate blogs about gardening, healthy living, and more.  Her recent post on weedkiller was everything I have ever wanted to say about lawn chemicals but didn't have the words for.
The Odd Particle [Re]View - Kern is one of my new favorite Canadians.  She has a terrific writing style and doesn't cease to amaze me on some of the thinks she thinks.  She unfortunately took a tumble early in the A-Z Challenge and was struggling with some post-concussion symptoms.  I am hoping she is up and blogging again soon. Truly one of my new favorite blogs.
Breathings - Jessica nominated me for an award (The Versatile Blogger award) early in the A-Z Challenge, which I acknowledged but did not do my part of.  I plan to do that later this month, now that I have more time and also have some bloggers to give the award to!
Kent's Bike Blog - Kent is a biker extraordinaire, the kind of biker I have never been and only ever dream to be.  He participated not only in the A-Z Challenge in April but also the 30 Days of Biking Challenge, which meant that not only did he come up with bike rides that correlated to 26 different letters but also biked and blogged about 4 other rides!  Made me almost stop whining about my own busy schedule.  Almost.
Life on the Muskoka River - Cathy cracks me up.  Check out her blog and see if she makes you laugh, too.
Sweet Tea Reads - Danielle and I have similar interests: writing, reading and cooking. 

Okay, well, there are more.  I will post more on another day.  This is enough to get you started.

Until we read again,
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