According to plan? Err…
Well, here we are and, boy, was April a demanding month! I didn’t expect the challenge to be this demanding. My plan was to research in February, write all the posts in March and then dedicate the whole of April to just visit and comment. Nice plan, uh?
Didn’t exactly worked out.
I did started researching in February… before my laptop crashed. I brought it to the technician and for a few unlucky coincidences, I ended up without laptop for over two weeks. So I read all my material (included an entire ebook) on my phone, which isn’t exactly what I’d recommend as a researching routine. Anyway, at the end of the first week of March, I had all my material done and read and all my notes taken. I was confident that in three weeks I could at least write the first draft of the entire challenge, maybe even start revising.
That’s when the flu struck, and it was horrible. It was quite a serious flu, but I didn’t realise it at first, so stupid me kept working. Didn’t take one day off work, and that had sure been a mistake. I ended up feeling miserable for two weeks, the first of which barely allowed me to drag myself to work and sleep once home.
So if you’ve done your maths, yes, that left me with just one week to write, which means I was always constantly running after, with scant time to read and comment other blogs. So much for my nice plan.
Don’t panic and you’ll learn a lot from the challenge
When I started writing my posts I nearly panicked. I wondered, was it a wise choice to pick film noir? I had never studied it before. Well, I did a bit of research for a guest post months ago (that’s why I chose the theme, I enjoyed that post), but I felt completely unprepared. As I wrote the first posts, I felt like a fraud. I had pages and pages of notes and even if I had an idea where I wanted to go with the challenge, I felt overwhelmed.
But it was too late to rethink, so I had to do my best with the theme I had chosen.
Turned out to be great fun. Yes, I did like researching, but it was when I wrote down my own posts and I started seeing a theory taking form that I really got into the subject and learned from it.
I’m very very happy I stuck with this theme because I enjoyed it a lot. It was very insightful for me, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, both about film noir, American and German cinema and also about storytelling. I won’t hesitate to say it was inspiring.
And there was what I love the most about the challenge: connecting. This is the very best of it. Meeting new people, discovering new blogs, reading, comment, share. This is the reason why I always try to plan in advance, because it leaves more time to network, to get in touch.
I’ll give this to the challenge, I’ve always learned something from it, especially about blogging. This years it was:
- Never despair. There is always time enough if you want to do something, because you’ll make time and make it work. If that means reading researching material on my phone, I’ll do it. If that means revising and building a post ‘till 1am, I’ll do it. If that means sitting down to write even when you really don’t fill like it, because tomorrow you’ll have a crappy first draft which is always better than nothing, I’ll do it… especially if the post is due up the day after tomorrow. Deadlines have always been a great spur for me.
- Prioritise. When you’re short on time, you need to decide your priorities and go with those. In the past two years, I went mad trying to keep up with both answering comment on my blog, commenting on other people’s blogs and finalising my posts. Because this year I had very little time, I decided I’d dedicate one day to one thing: one day to write, one day to comment on other blogs, one day to answer comments on my blog. I have to say this worked a lot better than running around trying to do everything. Yes, I fell behind on many occasions, but I finally caught up with everything, which is the thing. Makes me think that I should do something similar to my normal scheduling too.
- Plan. Kind of the mantra of the challenge, isn’t it? But it’s definitely a tipping point.
Finalising one post will take more time than you think, remember that. Time will vary from blogger to blogger, but for me just building the post once I had everything ready (the text, the graphics, any links, pics and videos) took me over one hour. And I already knew that, but believe me, when you have 26 posts to schedule, you will underestimate what that means in terms of time.
Here again the best thing is taking the time you need, don’t panic. In many an occasion, I thought the text was ok, then I thought I’d read it once again. Then I thought I’d read it again. Then I though one more time won’t hurt. If you feel you should, just do it, doesn’t matter if it takes some more time. If you feel you should check it out again, it’s because it need checking out. I guarantee you.
- Do share. This is something that the challenge taught me the first time I took part: share the hell out of it. Share your posts, share the posts you enjoyed, share what people you follow share, reciprocate people who shared your posts. It takes just a few seconds to share a post you liked… and why you shouldn’t? When I discover something I like, I want everybody to know it. When I started to blog, I thought this was cumbering, I didn’t really know what – or even how – to share, but the challenge taught me you can read and comment and share and still have plenty of time to do other things. Seriously: share it!
Basically, what I learned from this challenge is that quality is king and we should strive to achieve it. The way we do so, the time we take to reach that goal is totally up to us. But if we really want to go there, we’ll find the way, whether that means managing time better, renouncing to something, sleep a lot less than you think you need.
I didn’t regret doing it. Despondent as I had started, I ended up loving my theme.
2017 AtoZ experimentation, how it went for me
This year the challenge was managed in a very different way than the previous years, so let me reflect on this as the organizers asked us for.
There had always been a linky list that gathered the participant blogs, but as the challenge grew, the list became duped. Many blogs signed up but then didn’t take part, and there was a number of blogs that signed up merely because they knew a lot of people was going to check every single entry in the list.
Keeping the list clean had become a chore for the organizers (and I understand that), so this year they decided to do it a different way: no linky list, and instead post every day on the official blog where all participants would comment, living a link to their post for the day.
Before the challenge started there was quite some argument about it. Many people thought that having the additional chore to post every day on the official blog would be bothersome and many pointed out that having no official list was going to be wonky.
Personally, I didn’t mind the new method. I had taken part to the challenge only twice before, so I couldn’t say I was ‘accustoned’ to one way of doing it. I was perfectly fine with the new method too.
After trying it, this is what I think:
- I’m not sure the posting method is even. Because posting is affected by our time zone, the same people always got to post in the upper part of the comment section, and the same people always ended up in the lower part of the comment section. Last year we had a very long list of blogs to check, but the linky list was still quite manageable on one page, and we could decide to start checking anywhere on the list (it was suggested to start from the blog below us) so that all blogs had a chance to be seen.
The comment section is very different. With nearly 600 comments on the first letter, I wonder how many got to check to the end of the page. This means that our time zone affected our possibility to be seen and read
- Because the comment section were always overwhelming, I soon stopped checking. I did look up the entire Theme Reveal comment section, but on the first letter I gave up. Too much to do managing my own blog and visiting other blogs. I felt it took too long to scroll down that comment list.
It also took some trials before I figure out how to open a link in a new tab, so that I didn’t have to scroll down the comment section again. That was a bit awkward.
At the end of the day, I ended up not bothering about the comment section of the official blog other than to post my link… just in case.
- Most of my discovering was done through the actual blogs: people who commented on my blog (I always reciprocate), tweets on other blogger’s feed, people commenting on other blogs I liked. Basically, the mere mechanics of blogging and sharing.
In the end, I did kind of miss the linky list, but then, April is always so busy that I’m not sure I’d have done my challenge differently even with the list.
If I should give a suggestion, since I understand the linky list is not going to come back, it would be to maybe give more time and space to the Theme Reveal, so that we’ll have more time to discover blogs before the challenge starts.
I also missed the AtoZChat, which was another way to get in touch with people and blogs before the challenge started.
I’d be curious to see some stats about this year’s challenge. It’s probably just me, but I had the impression less people took part and that there was less diversity of offering. For example, I thought there was an overwhelming number of blogs doing fiction (not that I complain about that!) and less unique themes.
So, this is it for this year, folks. Let’s start planning for next year!