This was my second year doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge and, I have to admit, it almost wasn't.
After last year's "stress-fest" (brought on myself, I have to say) I had gotten a bit burnt out on blogging. Even though I had pre-written almost half my posts, it still seemed like I didn't have enough time to get out there and visit my 'usual suspects' as well as visit a lot of the new (to me) blogs on the A to Z list. After it was all over I decided I needed a bit of a break and that "break" went on way longer than I wanted. Again, no one to blame but myself, but I also realized that it was only me who could pull myself out of the writing rut I had gotten in.
I had to do something so, when I saw people start gearing up for the challenge this year, that little, yellow, light bulb flashed over my head.
It wasn't until, almost, the 11th hour that I threw my figurative hat into the ring and decided to give it a go.
And, you know what? I'm glad I did.
I had a lot more fun this year than last and I think that mainly stems from my approach. As I went along, last month, I started jotting down a few notes....some things that just popped into my head as I did the challenge...and figured I'd share my observations with you all. My little "survival guide" really helped me keep sane.
|"And don't call me 'Chief'!"|
Overall theme: Pacing is the key.
1. Decide why you're taking up the challenge. Is it to gain more contacts/followers/blogs to follow or is it mainly a writing exercise? Do you feel obligated or want to help someone else with co-hosting? Last year, I wanted to cultivate more blogging contacts and, in my mind, that meant hitting as many blogs as I could, as well as new ones. This year, I really wanted something that would make me write every day. Something that would hold me accountable and force me to put my butt in my over comfy chair and start pounding the soft touch, wireless keyboard. You know what? It worked.
2. Don't stress if you can't stop by everyone's blog during the challenge. This was a huge part of what stressed me out last year. I just didn't have a ton of extra time, last year, and it was about the same this year. It takes special dedication to reach out to so many blogs, how folks like Mr. Alex J. Cavanaugh do it, I'll never know. (Yes, I know about the clones, but we're not supposed to talk about that!) This year, I didn't let it bother me. I did what I could in the time that I had. Sure, some days I slacked off, but I felt like, overall, it was worth saving my energy. That leads to the next point....
3. Some days, it's o.k to "phone it in". Some days, I only had the time to write my post and publish it. There wasn't time to go around commenting and, conversely, I wasn't expecting many comments to be showing up on my posts. I still got way more than expected, so bless y'all's hearts and I thank you.
4. If you're a commenter....make it a meaningful comment. We all know, and have heard millions of times, that "Great post" alone does not constitute a meaningful comment, especially on a post you know someone spent a lot of time working on. Take the time to read the post and make a relevant comment. I think I only noticed one comment on one of my posts where it was clear that the person hadn't read (or just did a bad skim job) said post. No big deal, of course, maybe they were following their own survival guide. =)
5. If you're a poster....keep your posts short and sweet. If possible, that is. Nothing worse than trying to make the rounds and having to get through someone's wall of text so you can make that meaningful comment. Of course "short and sweet" can be a very subjective term. I tried to keep my posts on the short side, even though some of them could have gone on for pages....literally. Also, if you take the time to drop by a new blog to comment, give it a quick look and, if the subject matter looks interesting....give them a follow. It doesn't hurt and, if nothing else, let's the poster know people are dropping by.
6. Try to find new blogs and let them know you found them via the A to Z Challenge. I mean, at least for me, that's a large part of participating in the challenge. Spreading the word about new blogs, finding new blogs, making new contacts, etc. Now, in keeping with the theme of this little guide, do this only if you have the time. I tried to make it a point to check the A to Z list and visit at least five new blogs ("new" to me) when I went out commenting and, truth to tell, it didn't take that long to accomplish. I would also leave a "Howdy from the A to Z list" or "I found you through the A to Z Challenge"...things like that. Again, letting them know all their A to Z'ing isn't in vain.
7. Take time to recharge and unwind. The biggest difference in my approach to the Challenge from last year to this year. On more than one day, I decided I only had the time/inclination to get my post out there...and that was it. As much as I hated not checking in on a daily basis with my "usuals", I felt it was better for my pace to take some time to do something else. The usual things such as taking a walk with my wife, going to the beach, playing a video game, reading a book....things like that occupied my "downtime". If nothing else, this was one of the main factors that kept me from burning out halfway through April.
8. Have fun! While this one should be self explanatory it's, sometimes, not. The Challenge is supposed to be an enjoyable way to blog and, to be honest, it's a bit of an exercise in perseverance. Sort of like a month long marathon, pacing is way more important than sprinting....at least in this old guy's opinion. Just like regular blogging, the A to Z is supposed to be fun so, in that respect, you should do what you can to make it fun for you, first and foremost. Trust me, your blogging buddies will understand....mainly because most of them are feeling the exact same pressures you are.
So, what did you think? Any of the above ring true for you? Any other advice you'd impart on your fellow A to Z'ers?
Again, thank you all for dropping by and helping make my A to Z experience so enjoyable this year.