I absolutely loved the April Blogging From A to Z Challenge. It taught me an awful lot about blogging in general, & *my* blogging in particular. Nothing like coming in right at the beginning of a good lesson! Here are the ten lessons I learned from participating in this challenge.
Since I’m a very new blogger, the A to Z Challenge was an effective exercise to get me in the habit of writing every day. I may have neglected adding words to my story, & I may have completely stopped writing my daily journaling or “morning papers” altogether, but at least I was sitting down & putting in the work once every 24 hours. This alone would suffice to bring me back next year, but there are several other reasons I enjoyed it & plan to return.
2. Use a Word Beginning With the Appropriate Letter.
In addition to the act of daily writing, the A to Z Challenge gave me a jumping-off point, somewhere to start. Even though it was only a letter, not a word or even a theme, it served as a prompt to get my brain moving. Sometimes I work better with even the smallest hint of what should come next — like a writing assignment. Sometimes my innovation runs dry, & needs a lube job which the alphabet definitely provided.
Through the A to Z Challenge, I was able to find my “voice”, so to speak. I thought I wanted to be serious some days, silly on others, & pondiferous [yes, spell checker, it’s a word, cuz even if it’s not, I just coined that bitch] the rest of the week. This is absolutely untrue. In writing every day, I learned about half-way in that my best & most enjoyable writing was channeled during my sarcastic, rant-ish, or jokey posts. These were also the posts that garnered the most comments, so I know I’m on to something when I say that being serious just isn’t my bag. Which isn’t to say that I will avoid real-life topics. I just know that I need to put my own spicy flavoring to whatever I’m writing so that it tastes like *me* sauce. heh.
Visiting the A to Z Challenge sign-up page, I was able to find some very interesting blogs — ones which have been added to my list & which I even now still try to visit daily. I am definitely one who enjoys reading blogs of various design — heck, that’s what got me started on my own — but I am always eager to add more. Not enough days left to read everything I want, but I’m darn sure gonna give it my best! Thanks to the challenge, I have more blogs to choose from than ever before.
The A to Z Challenge also allowed me to make new online friends — some who live close by, & whom I hope to meet up with at some point, & others quite far away whom I will likely never meet unless we happen to attend a conference or training session or something awesome-wicked-cool along those lines. Regardless of whether I know them “in real life” or not, they have already proven invaluable in providing advice for bettering my blog, encouragement when I thought my writing wasn’t up to snuff, & a shoulder to cry on when my entire blog exploded. They offered their time & help without a second thought — “Let me know if I can do anything” — this single phrase was repeated so many times it still warms my heart even now to know such selfless, generous people.
Ah, confidence. Something I’ve always lacked in stating my opinion. Now, thanks in large part to the A to Z Challenge, I know I can pick a stance & state it loud & proud without fear of getting knocked down. Sure there will be haters. No doubt. But haters just prove that I’ve said something worth thinking about. And haters also prove that the delete button belongs to me, that I have the power to control a conversation. Which also means I can leave it up, if I so choose — which thus far, I have. Knowing I can moderate a discussion gives me the confidence to speak out in the first place. More than that, when someone — even one lone individual — voices agreement, I find comfort in the knowledge that I’m not alone.
7. Plan Ahead.
One thing I do think I’ll do differently during the A to Z Challenge next year: This time around, being my very first attempt, I did not go with an overriding theme. Next year I will definitely keep to some organized category. Even a loose one would be better than winging it, I think. Maybe I’m wrong. Something tells me that every year will be a new experiment — which is how writing should be anyway!
8. Be Prepared.
Also… next year I intend to be MUCH better prepared. I didn’t even know about the A to Z Challenge until a few days before it began, so I’m not upset at myself or anything. But in addition to having a theme, I will also have my word choices assigned from the very start. I did pretty well, I think, & was even able to write several ahead — but next time around, I want them all DONE & scheduled, so that I can just sit back & enjoy reading everyone else’s work. I didn’t get to comment as much as I would have liked, & based on how much I enjoyed the feedback from others, I know this is something I definitely need to improve.
My biggest hurdle — & really this my biggest hurdle in LIFE, not just with the A to Z Challenge, so it’s more a “me” thing than anything else — is myself. “DO THE WORK.” This is the most difficult jump for me. I know I can write. I love to write. So why don’t I write??? It’s kind of like going to a book club meeting for me — I know I’m good at analyzing books. I love to discuss books. So why don’t I go to the meeting??? And I did this with the gym, too, when I was a member. I know I can put in a kick-ass workout. I love the way I feel after a workout. So why don’t I go to the gym??? The simple answer to all these questions is that I’m lazy. But it’s more than that — I’m not merely physically lazy — I’ve allowed myself to become MENTALLY lazy, & that is a much more difficult muscle to stretch. It’s almost like I have hated abusive authority figures for so long now, I even detest the idea of bossing my own self around. I know that makes zero sense. I resent my own inner voice? Say whu? But it’s true! Once I can get that wrinkle ironed out, I think I’ll be in good shape. I have to remember another of my favorite mottoes: “JUST SHOW UP.”
I am very grateful to have participated in this years A to Z Challenge, & can’t wait to do it again! As a matter of fact, I’m somewhat at a loss this week, & was quite happy to find another challenge (even if it’s only for one day!).
*Le Gasp*… whatever will do I once I’m on my own again? And what is everyone else off to now? Can’t wait to read what lessons *YOU* took away from the A to Z Challenge!