Popping my A to Z Challenge Cherry: A Few Thoughts

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

pop cherryWell, now it’s May.  Which means that April’s A to Z Blogging Challenge is officially over.  There are people who have done the challenge for the last several years, but this was the first year I participated, and I’m glad I did!  So as a *former* A to Z Challenge virgin, I’ve learned a few things (well, some of them I knew, but they became a bit more evident).  Since a bunch of the bloggers are posting reflections about the challenge, I will do the same, and share with you a few of the things that I took away from this experience.

A Few Things About My Own Blogging:

  • To my dismay, “short and sweet” is something I am unable to achieve (unless you’re talking about me, personally).  If I have a topic that I’m exploring (in this case, Ladies I Love), I have to write to a point where I feel like I’ve covered my subject as best I can.  I can’t just write a few sentences and have that be it.  There has to be a butt-load of links, lots of pictures, and a video or two.  I tried to aim for 300 – 500 words per post, but I often found myself publishing posts that were 800 – 1000 words.  I hope that didn’t dissuade people from reading!  See…even this first bullet point is just too long and wordy!  I clearly don’t know when to stop.  Like right now.  Now.
  • I’m kind of a freakin’ perfectionist, and it’s really annoying.  I have to re-read posts several times before I publish, making sure that my spelling and grammar are correct, and that pictures are arranged just so.  Several times it kept me up waaaaay past my bedtime.
  • The pace of blogging every day was a little hectic for me!  I had about half the posts done ahead of time, but that left about half the posts for me to do the night before, and because of point number one above, this could sometimes be a little overwhelming.  I’m looking forward to getting back to my pace of ~2 posts per week!
  • The Challenge really gave me an opportunity (and excuse) to promote my blog across  various social media platforms, some of which I’m not too used to using.  I am definitely shy about promoting my blog on Facebook with my friends, but I made a Facebook page for my blog and shared posts from there occasionally.  I also shared my posts on the April A to Z Blogging Challenge Facebook page.  Twitter:  I tweeted my posts out twice a day, and participated in Monday Blogs on (you guessed it) Mondays.  I was sooo grateful for retweets and favorites!  That really made my day 🙂  Finally, with Google+ I shared posts on my own page, and in the A to Z Challenge Community.  It was a lot of work!

The Most Important Thing I Got From The Challenge:

  • I think that the point of the A to Z Challenge is NOT to increase the number of followers on your blog or the number of email subscribers, etc. (although those things are nice, I will admit).  For me, the point of the whole Challenge was about forging new RELATIONSHIPS with other bloggers.  Every time I got a new comment on a post from someone who read, really read, what I wrote, it just really gave me a warm feeling inside.  It was a connection!  With another human being!  And being an introverted person, I really cherish those connections from the people who make the effort to respond to me putting myself out there.
  • Making connections with people takes work.  As much time as I spent promoting myself on various social media platforms, I easily spent three times that amount of time reading other bloggers’ posts, trying to make thoughtful comments, and sharing their posts on social media. There wasn’t enough time for me to read everyone’s blogs that I liked every day, so I have some post-Challenge work ahead: read through the A to Z posts of those blogs that I couldn’t read every day!  I use Bloglovin’ to track all the blogs that I read, which works great because it doesn’t matter what blogging platform is used – you can follow WordPress blogs, Blogger blogs, whatever.  I made lists for “Favorite A to Z Blogs” etc. which have really helped me remember what I want to revisit!
  • I really enjoyed having virtual conversations with people that I would’ve otherwise never met had it not been for this Challenge.  There are a few people that I will continue to keep in touch with because they were just so friendly and interesting.  Again, it’s that connection – the most valuable thing I gained from this whole Challenge.

Speaking of Awesome Bloggers…

I got to read a lot of great blogs from all types of writers.  I could list a ton of them, but I will just give you a taste of some of my favorites, my top 10!

  • Angels Bark:  A blog about dogs and life.  I loved the passion with which Michele writes about animal welfare.
  • Bemuzin:  Sammy’s theme for the Challenge was “objects”.  She wrote some of the most thoughtful comments on my blog and was so supportive – I love her!
  • Every Day is a Miracle:  Marie’s theme was Portlandia from A to Z.  Since I lived in Portland (and am still close by), I loved this perspective!
  • Sick B*tch:  Mich’s theme was “I am going to complain now” and her blog says everything I’m afraid to say (or, at least put down in writing).
  • Strange Pegs:  The theme of this blog was “Abandoned Places”.  Incredible photos and back-stories!
  • The Squirrel Nutwork:  This blog featured critters from nature all during April.  Very cute and lots of great photos!
  • The Waiting is the Hardest Part:  Stormy the Weather Gnome took over this blog to brag about 26 things that gnomes can do but humans can’t.  Loved it!
  • The Writer’s Way:  Michelle wrote a month-long story about our favorite fairy tale characters in modern times, all grown up.  Very creative!
  • Tongue In Cheek:  Hmm.  How do I describe this blog?  3 Things:  Polkapocalypse, the ‘Possum Queen, and the Gnome Defense League.  Read. This. Blog.
  • Traveling Cats:  Photos of cats from all over the world, from cities with names starting from A to Z.

Mission AccomplishedWell, that about does it for me.  I had a great time during the Challenge and plan on doing it again next year.  I loved the theme I used, but was sad that I couldn’t feature all the Ladies I Love…there just weren’t enough days in the month!  Some of my runner-ups were:  Sally Ride (amazing astronaut), mothers, Joan Cone (my high school English teacher), Hillary Clinton, writer Amy Tan, Emily Dickinson, Sally Jewell (Secretary of the Department of the Interior), Anne Frank, Nujood Ali (just google her – what a hero!), Pamela Greer, Georgia O’Keefe, and so so many others!

What is next on my list?  A couple of things:  1) revisit all those A to Z blogs I couldn’t keep up with, 2) continue participating in the Fabulous Blogging & Social Media Bootcamp, and 3) continue writing.  Until next year, I consider the A to Z Challenge a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  Congratulations to everyone who took part, and THANK YOU to everyone who visited Fuzzy Undertones!  ❤

28 thoughts on “Popping my A to Z Challenge Cherry: A Few Thoughts

  1. Congrats on making it through. I wonder if the challenge helped your perfectionism? Did it change anything for you? I had a different subject this year especially because I felt like people weren’t reading my entire posts when they were long, so this time around – my prompts, quotes and questions were very to the point.

    As always, in the end I find more blogs I wish I had found during the challenge!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    The Bold Writer from A to Z

    • Hi Julie! Congrats to you, too! Thanks for taking the time to read through my A to Z Reflections post. Regarding my perfectionism, I don’t think that the Challenge changed anything for me – especially when it came to the length of my posts. If anything, I spent more time on posts that became longer towards the end of the Challenge! But you bring up a great point – I think I will pick a much lighter theme next year, something that doesn’t require long posts or whatever. Maybe a photo-type theme? Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  2. I was a A to Z virgin a month ago also (well a month and 5 days ago) too! Congrats on making it through (and having half the posts written before they were due).
    And i totally agree with the connecting with people (and how good the retweets feel). Yay us!x

  3. Oh you sweet thing, Marci, popping your Challenge Cherry and living to tell about it 🙂 I got such a tickle in my heart from your shout-out. Meeting you was worth participating in the Challenge, for sure. The “Ladies I Love” had such a joyful connotation, and then to give us such outstanding ladies from so many backgrounds and experiences. It was truly a joyful representation of female treasures.
    Last night I visited, and couldn’t tear myself away from, your other favorite bloggers’ sites. Good lord, what crafty talent from those ladies I’m also going to love.
    I had no idea you were engaging in so many social medias during the challenge. That would be way too overwhelming for this little old grandma (!) but I am taking a twitter class in a few weeks. Will see how much I understand from that!

    Well done, Marci, and I look forward to seeing who you are and what you post in May, June, …….

    • Hi Sammy! I’m so happy that you liked my theme and appreciated the ladies I wrote about! AND, I’m stoked that you went to the other sites that I listed – aren’t they great? I was happy to include you in that list, of course. I haven’t commented on your reflections post yet, but I really liked what you said about having a library of interesting topics that we have now that the A to Z Challenge is complete – A to Z volumes from each of our favorite bloggers! Those will be something that we can read through when we have time to relax and enjoy. I hope that you have fun in your twitter class – follow me @FuzzUnder! I will follow you back, fo’ sho’! 😉

      I loved having you as a reader, and I hope that we can keep up with each other! ❤ ❤ ❤

      • @FuzzUnder from @theSamster Not sure I’ll get a Twitter acct, but I want to see why the buzz, and the class sounded manageable for non-techie me!

        Let’s go to the library together often 🙂 You can skate and I’ll ride my bike. Hearts back at ya, but I haven’t learned how to do those on WP yet. Arghhh

    • Thanks very much, Michelle! I so loved reading your stories throughout the Challenge…and I’m still working on my Liebster Award post! I will let you know when it’s done 😉

  4. Marci, Thank you so much for including me as one of your favorite bloggers. Finding you and your blog is the best thing I got out of the A to Z Challenge this year!

    It’s my second year doing the challenge, and I always spend so much time assembling my posts (like you) that I don’t get enough time to read other people’s blogs. Maybe I will have to spend May visiting random blogs! The other problem I have is that many of the blogs I’ve visited don’t interest me that much. Yours is different that way, and that’s why I feel so glad to have discovered you!

    Thanks for sharing all the ladies you love. I might have to use that as a theme one of these years. One thing I’ve decided is that I need to alternate years–do one year on an easy topic and one year on a more challenging, time-consuming one. After two challenging years, next year I’m doing something easy!!

    Congratulations on finishing the month!

    • Hi Marie! Thanks so much for being one of my favorite parts of the A to Z Challenge this year! I loved your posts about Portland – you picked some great Portland spots to write about! I’m so glad I found your blog through the Challenge – like I said, making those connections was the best part of April for me 🙂

      You have a fantastic suggestion about picking an “easy” theme every other year for the Challenge. It will be a mini-challenge for me to pick a topic that forces me to take it easy – perhaps some sort of photo blog theme? This could be fun…and I have lots of time to think about it. And you’re right – that will free up some time from writing, leaving more time for visiting, reading and commenting on other blogs. That took up a lot of time – more time than I was prepared for! As you mentioned, some blogs are interesting, others not so much. But the whole thing was worth it to find even just a handful of blogs that I know I’ll continue reading…like yours!

      Congrats on finishing the Challenge – I’ll see you around the virtual neighborhood! 😀

    • Thanks so much, Christiana! Congrats on surviving the challenge – are you enjoying this fantastic weather??? I appreciate you stopping by! 😀

    • Hi Jennifer! Yay! I hope that you had as much fun with the A to Z Challenge as I did. I have a lot of really great blogs to catch up on, so I’ll be sure to stop by and visit yours soon! Thanks for stopping by and reading 😉

  5. I like your reflections post Marci. Social media helps as I realized I did more tweeting than I use to do. I didn’t know much of blogloving until I read your post, and just signed up. Thanks for that.

    • Thanks, Michelle. Yes – I think twitter really helps a lot for promoting posts, but I’ve found that sometimes you have to tweet a lot – there’s a ton of information out there, and a single chirp can get lost in the cacophony of tweets! I’ve also found that niche groups on Facebook and Google+ can really help disseminate posts, when appropriate. I hope you like Bloglovin – it’s a great way to manage all the blogs you follow! 😉

  6. Glad to have met you through the challenge and happy that we are connected through our blogs and google+ now so I can keep up with your posts. I enjoyed your series very much and greatly appreciate reading your reflection on the challenge. Congratulations of completing the challenge and I’ll see you soon, in the blogosphere and sooner than later, I will be back next April for the A to Z challenge.
    Stephanie
    http://stephanierosebirdstudio.blogspot.com

    • Hi Stephanie! Good to see you here. Thanks for reading my A to Z posts – that was so much fun, but so exhausting!!! Congrats to you, too, for finishing the Challenge – I’ll be back for that as well next year. I stopped by your blog and read your Beltane post (and your previous Beltane Blessings post), which I really enjoyed. I’m partial to the Samhain sabbat, but they are all special for any number of reasons. I hope that you’re having a beautiful, blessed spring! 😀

  7. OMG! Samhain along with Yule are my favorites! Thanks for stopping by today. I’m glad you found those two posts.

  8. very thorough reflection – and sounds like it was a smashing success! i agree with most of the blogs you chose and need to check out the rest. way to finish with flying colors on your first try! NTMY =)

    • Thank you, Tara! Nice to meet you, too! I just stopped by your blog and I don’t know how it slipped past me during the Challenge, but I WILL be back to look through your posts. I LOVE the chart you put together for your reflections post – I will have to do something similar next year! Congrats on finishing the challenge – see you around the block! 😀

  9. Thanks for the shout out, Marci!

    I’ve been loving your blog. And you’re right. Making and keeping connections is really hard. Especially when you’re an introvert, which is another thing we have in common. (I never-okay hardly ever- say the things I think in person.)

    I also couldn’t keep my posts very short, (especially my “Y” post) which I think kept some people from reading, but I gotta be me.

    Congratulations on finishing the challenge. We both popped our challenge cherries! lol!!

    • And congrats to you for finishing the Challenge as well! It’s funny what just a month of writing can teach you about yourself, right? Especially with the post-length thing, I ultimately decided that hey – this is my blog, and I write what I wants to write! I’m not going to NOT say something just because some people have short attention spans, you know? Lol…well, I’ll be stopping by your blog now and then to see what you are up to. Write as much as you like – I will read it! 😉

  10. Excellent Reflections post with good news for us to hear on the A to Z Team. You learned valuable lessons and gained experience that will make the future Challenges go much easier for you.

    Originally my intent was for participants to gain more followers. That was certainly the reason why I did it the first year. Now as you observe the relationship building is very important. Also the building of community around ones own blog and entering other existing communities is important. Improving blogging skills is another great learning experience and shorter posts can come with that.

    Thanks for the Reflections and glad that you had a good report for us.

    Lee
    A Faraway View

    • Thank you, Lee, for bringing the A to Z Challenge to life! As you said, I gained A LOT from my first challenge, and look forward to doing it again. I really did “meet” a lot of really great people whom I plan to keep in touch with through the blogging community. It certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of what is out there! Thanks for swinging by and reading my thoughts. 😀

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