Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - LgThis April I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the third time, sharing a selection  of what I described as “Interwebby Wonderments.”

The first year I decided to join in the bloggy fun was 2012, and I fell and whacked my head on the sidewalk when I was a few posts from the finish line. (Fortunately a few friends banded together and finished for me.) In 2013 I made it to the end, exhausting as as that was. My experiences in both years should have taught me some important lessons, but as you’ll see below. I don’t learn so quickly.

This year I decided to sign up even though I was, by ridiculous coincidence, in the process of recovering from another “head meets sidewalk” fiasco–because I’m just that coordinated–but I still managed to finish. And I think I’ve finally learned some of those important lessons:

PLAN AHEAD

Other than deciding on a handful of topics, I didn’t do much pre-planning, and I didn’t pre-write any of my posts. That was silly for all kinds of reasons, but primarily because it meant the time I spent researching and writing my posts was time I didn’t spend visiting other blogs. I still managed to visit somewhere between 10 and 40 blogs a day, depending on how rude life decided to be about rearing its intrusive head, but my brain felt pretty explodey by the end of some days. And by “some,” please read “most.”

FOR GOODNESS SAKE, DON’T BE SO LONG-WINDED

Please understand, I’m not talking about anyone but myself here. I actually like long posts, even during the challenge, but I realize that others don’t, and to all of you, I apologize! You’d think that without pre-planning my posts would have been, by necessity, brief. You’d be so wrong. It would seem that I am nothing, if not verbose. Case in point? This post. Sorry again.

PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE AND THEY DON’T ALWAYS BEHAVE THE WAY YOU WANT THEM TO

I knew from previous years that a lot of people aren’t terribly reciprocal about blogging challenges. They love your visits and comments, but they don’t feel particularly obligated to return the favour. This year I went in prepared for this, and for the most part it didn’t bother me. I have my own cunning strategies for finding people who will reciprocate. It did annoy me, though, when I saw that some people who were so diligent about visiting a lot of blogs and commenting often received almost no comments in return. No wonder so many people dropped out along the way. That must have been so disheartening.

CAPTCHA IS NOT MY FRIEND

Okay, I didn’t learn that this year, but oh, good grief, that got annoying. Half the time Blogger managed to lose my comments while I was doing the whole captcha sign in thing. After a while I learned to copy my comments before trying to post them, which saved me from banging my head off the keyboard.

MY BLOG CAN BE A SNOTTY MOO

My apologies to anyone who ran into difficulties trying to comment on my blog, which kept pretending it hadn’t received the comment or that the comment was a duplicate, or even worse, hijacking the comment into comment purgatory because it didn’t like one of the links. I wanted to switch themes to see if that would help, but I didn’t dare do anything during the challenge in case I messed up everything.

I STILL LOVE THIS CHALLENGE

For me this challenge is about connecting–with the bloggers I’ve met in previous challenges or through social media, and with new bloggers whom I probably wouldn’t have found without the challenge. I was going to try to name and link to some of those blogs, but I know I’d end up leaving someone out, and I don’t want to do that. I’m pretty sure there are quite a few blogs I meant to follow and didn’t. I’d drop a comment, move to the next blog, and then wonder, whoops, did I click “follow”? I’ll be rectifying that as I browse through the reflections posts.

THANK YOU

To Arlee Bird, the co-hosts, and all the minions, a huge and heartfelt thank you for giving us this yearly opportunity to go blog-bonkers together.

39 thoughts on “Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

  1. Kern you are a GIFT!! I love your comments as they nearly reflect my thoughts. I STILL can’t get my *&$%# Blog to work so people can follow me or “like” me or even be notified that I posted. Plus, my administrator decided to upgrade my blog, fortunately at “Z” so attempting to post and edit was HORRIBLE. I’m still trying to put my blog back together. I wish I was technically minded… RATS!

    I’m so glad you found me, as I didn’t have the time to go out and explore the world. But a couple of wonderful people found me… you being one of those people. You are a fabulous friend! Thanks for hanging in there AND for surviving the Challenge…. YEAAAAAAAA!!! 😉

    • Honestly, our blogs can be beasts sometimes. We think they’re ticking along just as they should be and boom! Someone tells us that their comments have been sucked into the void or they can’t figure out how to follow us or who knows what all. How horrible that your administrator updated your blog during the challenge. Thank goodness it didn’t happen until “Z”!

      I found you through Susan’s bog (Garden of Eden). Your comments there really appealed to me, so I clicked on through, and never looked back! So happy to have met you, dear Gwynn.

  2. Your participation in the A to Z challenge makes me positively giddy. Thank you for all the fun, distracting links but moreover, thank you for sharing your wonderfully witty and natural writing. Awesomesauce, Kern. Absolutely awesomesauce :)))

    • I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your support through this challenge, Jo. You knew everything that was going on behind the scenes, and I could feel you chivvying me on, and it meant so much. We’ve both had interesting months, haven’t we? And you want to talk awesomesauce, my friend? You go look in the mirror.

  3. I looked forward everyday Kern to your posts! Mine went up 9.00 am SA time and yours came up the same time! Must have been midnight ish in your neck of the woods. It was such a great way to start the day!!! So wonderful to connect and hope this continues! !! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • I’d write my posts the night before and then schedule them to go live at midnight–mostly because I figured no-one in my neck of the woods would be reading blogs at 11 p.m.! Susan, your posts were an ongoing delight and inspiration. I’m sharing the link to your blog with everyone I know who has the remotest interest in dreams and saying “you HAVE to read these.” I just pointed my daughter in your direction a few minutes ago.

  4. I agree with so much of this!
    A lot of comments seemed to fall into my spam filter, but I only discovered that after another blogger mentioned it, which is why I’m just now sorting them out.
    As a WordPress person, I found it harder to comment on other platforms, and with great bias, I claim the WordPress users had better A-Z blogs, lol!
    Anyway, thanks for stopping by 🙂

    • It is so incredibly frustrating when our blogs misbehave during challenges like this–even when they’re trying to protect us. 🙂
      I agree, it was a bit nightmarish trying to comment on other platforms. I thought I might go right round the twist a couple of times. And what was up with those “members only” blogs???

  5. I learned the hard way as well to copy my comment before hitting “publish”. If I wasn’t logged on to my gmail account, the comment went “poof”. I feel like I had to enter my name, email, and website about a zillion times, but now after hitting the first letter, some little gremlin seems to remember the rest. Isn’t technology a kick?

    • That drove me nuts too. I don’t know how many comments I had to rewrite because Blogger ate the original–until I finally started copying. There has to be a simpler system for cross-platform commenting, doesn’t there? Ah, technology, how we love to hate to love you. 🙂

  6. You’ve summed up the A-Z experience so well, Kern. I don’t know how you visited 40 blogs in a day on top of writing your own witty interwebby wonderments and — I assume, working full-time.

    I love reading your wit, so refreshing to me after a bloggy day. Thanks, and I’ll be back (to con a phrase).

    • Believe me, it wasn’t 40 blogs a day EVERY day. That would have been daunting! You’re right, I was working full-time, and it was definitely challenging enough some days to even manage 10 visits. And I can’t truthfully say that my comments were particularly riveting by the time I typed the last one of the day. 🙂

      You’re so kind, Samantha, and believe me, it goes both ways. I found your posts fresh, original, moving and inspiring. I, too, will be back.

  7. Glad I found you! I hear ya on the commenting problem. Someone made a comment on someone else’s blog that finally made me take the plunge right in the middle of the challenge to move from blogger to WordPress. Best move evah! Great reflections post!

    • I’m glad, too, Susan. Wow, I’m so impressed with your courage in making the switch to WordPress right in the middle of the challenge! I would have been terrified of messing up big time. I’m with you, though–making that move a couple of years ago made my blogging life so much easier.

  8. Hi Kern, just wanted to say how well thought out your reflections post was, to me, anyway. You mentioned a lot of things that also impacted me such as struggling to post on some non-Wordpress blogs. I did try, honest. Next time, I’ll decide before 1 April that I’m going to take part, maybe give myself a bit of planning time. Although so far, I’ve done the same for NaNoWriMo and for NaBloMoPo for May, so maybe that’s just how I work better. Next time I’ll look in on even more blogs, as I’ve been amazed by the sheer variety of what’s out there if you make time to look. So thanks everyone who looked in on me, all the very best for now, until next time.

    • Thank you, Kimberley, I really appreciate that. I mentioned on your blog that I’m super impressed that you jumped right from A to Z into NaBloMoPo. Now that’s dedicated blogging! And, hey, there are a lot of bloggers out there who write a post a day all the time with no pre-writing (case in point, the amazing Chuck Wendig), so if it works for you, that’s all that matters. Glad to have connected–I’ll pop over to check out your NaBloMoPo posts.

  9. Great post, Kern! I didn’t want to leave anyone out either, but now I feel badly, because people are posting lists all over the place. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t.

    The first year I did the Challenge, everyone I visited returned the favour. I was really surprised by the lack of consideration this year. It was too bad, because I really liked some of those blogs. But, as far as I’m concerned, if you sign up for A-to-Z, it’s part of the agreement to visit and comment on other blogs.

    I’m another one who has to apologize for long posts. I tried to write short ones whenever possible, but sometimes there was just too much to cover!

    • I don’t think there’s a need to feel badly about not posting a list. Maybe I’m just a softie, but I worry about people who scan a list for their name because maybe they think there was a greater connection that I did, or maybe I just had a brain glitch and forgot to add them, and then they feel hurt, and yadda yadda. I just don’t want to be harshing anyone’s bliss, you know? Because any one of the people that I might have forgotten to add to my list could end up becoming my bloggy besties, but that road to bestie-hood might be just a bit bumpier if I offend them this early in the relationship. My plan is to start tweeting and FB-ing posts from the people whose blogs really resonated–it’s less of a popularity contest that way.

      Sigh. Never let it be said that I overthink these things.

      I read someone’s reflection post who said she was a bit surprised about people expecting comments, and that she hadn’t commented because that’s not her usual practise. From my perspective, it IS part of the challenge, and fairly explicitly so, in which case challenge rules trump person practise. But there you go. We all do these things our own way.

      Thank goodness you write long posts–they were freaking awesome!

  10. Hi Kern!
    The A to Z challenge has passed and now I’ll be lurking around, at my leisure, checking out the blogs I missed during the “April madness”…
    … so if you see a lurker, don’t be alarmed… 🙂
    Congrats on reaching the A to Z finishing line!
    Writer In Transit

  11. Late to the party, but thank you Kern for your wonderfully distracting posts 🙂 I honestly can’t tell you how impressed I am that you managed to get through it – I would never even consider attempting such a thing – but I think you gave much entertainment to many readers, and I do hope you take due satisfaction from the achievement. Can we now start a petition to have the pavements of Vancouver covered in that durable rubber so that in the event of unfortunate accidents, no real harm will be done? 🙂

    One other thing: can I get back to my WIP now? Pleeeease???!!! 🙂

    • You’re welcome at the party whatever time you show up, Chris. 🙂 The reason I do take this challenge on in April is that it really helps me develop my “speed writing” skills, and it never fails to connect me with a very cool, supportive group of people that I end up staying connected to. Definitely worth the stress!
      And, yes, please to that petition. It would make my life so much easier.
      Now, go! Shoo! Back to that WIP!!

  12. I’ve never really gotten annoyed by people who don’t return visits, but I have gotten mystified by them. I don’t know how many blogs I visited and commented on this year that seemed to be getting very little traffic, and yet most of these people never returned the visit. I honestly wonder if they understand the concept of a blog hop. Oh well.

    Anywho… I really enjoyed your posts, even though I didn’t find you until the third-to-last day (or rather, you found me, to be more accurate). Better late than never! I’m glad you made it through despite whacks to the head. And hooray for verbosity! 😉

    • Now that’s interesting. I didn’t notice whether the people who had almost no comments were also doing almost no visiting. That could explain things right there. I do think there’s a select group of people who genuinely don’t understand the concept of a blog hop, and who figure just posting is sufficient.

      I enjoyed your posts, too, Sara, those beautifully written stories. No matter that we only connected toward the end of the challenge–at least we connected. And I’ll second that hooray for verbosity!

  13. I agree I often wonder why people don’t return comments. Everyone loves comments so why wouldn’t you want to make someone’s day and leave them a note? I do tend to think people who don’t return comments just want to drive traffic to their website rather than engage in a conversation and that always puts me off.

    Oh and Capcha – oh my god the endless frustrations! The number of times my comments didn’t post because I forgot I had to click the im not a robot feature and clicked out of the site.

    Anyway, congrats on finishing A to Z – and personally I think verbose posts are great. I have to because I’m overly verbose when I blog 😉 I had a blast with your posts, it was so fun to meet you during A to Z and I’m looking forward to what comes next!! 🙂

    • I think of the A to Z challenge as a group of community-minded bloggers, so it disappoints me when people don’t engage. I imagine some people think of it as more of a personal challenge and don’t consider the community aspect of interest or relevance to them. Unfortunate, but there you go.

      It was great meeting you, Celine–my fellow verbosifier. It’s a word. Really!

  14. I find it interesting that you are calling out the people who don’t return blog visits/comments. I guess, since this is just my second year participating, I just assumed that most people simply ran out of energy halfway through the challenge. I know I certainly did! It was fun though, and I will probably be participating again next year. 🙂

    • I’m sorry if my comment came across as “calling out.” I wasn’t trying to be harsh about it. I think there were all kinds of reasons for people not commenting, some more understandable than others–including running out of energy, because, whoa yeah, energy was in short supply in the last week or so. But I started noticing this in the first few days of the challenge, not just the last half. I think people participate for different reasons, and sometimes those reasons don’t have a heck of a lot to do with community–which is unfortunate because I think the intent of the challenge is *all* about community.

      It was fun, though, I agree 100%! I’m planning on participating next year, and I hope you decide to as well. 🙂

  15. Glad you found me too Kern. I do agree with the comment about people not replying. I always write my posts in advance, learnt that after the first year.

    If you keep falling, it sounds like your balance is right off. I learned to balance much better by taking up T’ai Chi. You should look into it.

  16. I like to misbehave sometimes… I did my best like your post here said, I found it easier to comment back on those who made efforts on my site… then visited new places. I try to start at the bottom and work my way up, those people seemed to be lots of dead space, spammers and look at me, look at me… places. Many forget it’s a challenge and you have to work at it to get response, oh and the boring… posts that rambled on about nothing… lol.

    I went bonkers with some who thought making it unique with no markings it was for the challenge or way at the end of the posts was a blurb after 2,500 words of some book they wrote… blah, blah, blah read my book, here is my passage from that book.

    I found the great places in travel, comments, fun posts and people like yourself… interesting.

    We made it…Hope you had a great time, thank you for your Reflection!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    HOLLYWOOD NUTS!
    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood… is Nuts?

  17. I am another blogger checking out more blogs now that the Challenge is over. I am a long distance caregiver and some days I had time (I also work full time) – some days not. I am happy to have found your blog. I’ve fallen enough times, by the way, that I’ve enrolled in a balance class for senior citizens. It starts next Wednesday and we’ll see how it goes.

  18. Great Reflections post! I found your blog by way of Mark C over at The View from the Olive Grove. He listed your blog as one that he frequented so I thought I’d check you out…and boy, am I glad I did! I’m looking forward to reading your A-Zs. And I have some of the same gripes as you do, especially with the reciprocal commenting (or lack thereof). That was disheartening: I visited way more blogs than commented on mine but I’m grateful for the ones who did and some of them are new friends so that’s a bonus right there. Congrats on finishing. See you for the Road Trip??
    Michele at Angels Bark

  19. Hi Kern – loved meeting you during the A-Z and seeing your posts. It’s the luck of the draw re commenting back … but people seem to get it (sometimes eventually!) and realise it’s part of the process … particularly in a friendly blogosphere like this.

    I think I mentioned … I created accounts for WP and for Disqus and that eliminates the commenting hassle … G+ is questionable – I try .. but if it’s not easy – then it gets left out.

    Life’s too short … but finding good blogs, excellent friends and enjoyment .. makes the A-Z fun – also one catches up with old friends too ..

    Cheers and see you around … Hilary

  20. Checking in as I drive through on the A to Z Road Trip. I agree so much that blog posts should be much shorter. If you find something that is very long and detailed you can always save it for after the challenge. Might even get people to come back to see what you have to say. The first year I participated in the challenge, I was very disturbed by the simple lack of comments. Even from the staff. They made up for it this year. It is just so hard to get around to all the blogs. I had so much increased traffic to my blog that it blew my mind. But not nearly the comments to support that! Who knows why? I even, laughingly, came across blogs who blasted the captcha yet they had it on their blog. Sometimes commenting is made hard by the blog itself. I wish people would fix that. Nevertheless I will always do the challenge again. I meet so many wonderful people

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