"As the stars shine deep in the night sky. As the sun sits way above the clouds. As the world spins, time and time again. Look at myself, wondering where I've been."
If you’ve read any of my blog posts from the last four weeks, you might understand why one of R&B crooner Trey Songz’ albums fits the title of this post so well -- for many reasons. Here are my reflections as a participant in the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
In preparation for the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I came up with a theme focused on music, movies and parties. It was fairly easy to come up with ideas for most of the letters, until I got toward the end of the alphabet. Letters T, U,V,W,X,Y and Z threw me for a loop because it became difficult to find songs that I listen to with letters that match the name of the artists who perform them. So, I eventually ended up just going either way such as choosing the song “Unpretty” for my Letter U post but then featuring rock band The Verve on the Letter V day about Movie Villains.
My Russian Roulette post is my favorite blog post from this year’s A to Z Challenge because it is about putting forth time and effort for only things that truly matter to us. As far as fellow A to Z Challenge participants go, Lunievicz’s T is for Tartarus post as well as The Shellshank Redemption’s Give Me an M! Mirror post are among my favorite blog posts. In these posts, Lunievicz uses Greek mythology to illustrate how our society drives out people’s creativity by the time they reach adulthood, while Madeline at The Shellshank Redemption encourages women to see themselves in a better light -- even starting her post with a quote that reads...
“EVERY TIME A WOMAN PASSES A MIRROR AND CRITICIZES HERSELF, THERE’S A GIRL WATCHING” - Gloria Steinem
Madeline’s “Mirror” blog post was a part of her A to Z Challenge series, called Motivational Month. Her April blogging theme is among my favorite series from the challenge. Nicki Elson’s Disney theme at Nicki Elson’s Not-So-Deep Thoughts, Su’s names theme at Cheekyness and Heather’s Stormy Weather theme at The Waiting is the Hardest Part are also favorite series of mine. Nicki Elson shared little known traveling tips for those visiting Disney World and Su provided readers with historical information on names that she likes while also highlighting famous people and fictional characters that share them. Heather treated readers to cute photo stories featuring a toy Gnome for every letter of the alphabet.
I discovered and rediscovered several blogs during April that I will be returning to in the future, including Courtney’s Sketch Blog where LEGO blocks come alive, Seriously - WTH? where laugh-inducing posts live, Writing in Flow where more humor is found, My Next 20 Years of Living where individuality is championed and encouraged through a reminder of one of nature’s simplest beauties and Life in Clarity where readers were reminded to live out their dreams boldly regardless of what others think about your aspirations.
My journey through the alphabet was hectic but exciting, and frustrating, yet, victorious. While I did not meet many new bloggers with similar interests in film, I was happy to see 2011 A to Z Challenge participant, Maurice at Film Sketchr taking on the alphabet again this year. It was also nice to get back into the habit of reading Jenn’s blog posts at Wine-n-Chat, again.
The interactive movie games featured in several of my April blog posts were well received by readers, which is one of the delightfully surprising highlights of my participation in the A to Z Challenge -- I am glad that people took the time to play them.
Although I stumbled upon many blogs still using word verification for comments, this discovery was less frustrating than I thought it would be. In fact, it did not prevent me from leaving a comment on some blogs. I still commented on blogs with word verification because while it’s easy to see the captcha screens as a time-waster, I realized that it would cost me more time visiting a new blog.
Since I already went through the task of reading an entire A to Z blog post, it takes less time to just fill out the silly word verification form and move on to the next blog, instead of going back to the signup list..and then finding the next blog to read...and then reading the most recent A to Z blog post on that new blog...and THEN leaving a comment.
I did not have word verification setup on my blog and was disappointed to see that comments on the majority of my A to Z blog posts were scarce. Even at the time of this writing, my blog post for the Letter X, about Xscape and My Netflix Queue, has zero comments.
I found that to be very discouraging with regards to reading new blogs during the challenge, because I visited 10 blogs -- double the co-host's request that participants visit 5 Blogs-a-Day (I remember Jenny, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Arlee encouraging everyone to aim for visiting five new blogs each day) -- so, that’s like at least 70 blogs per week for me and that doesn’t even count the new A to Z blogs that I visited based on the links and recommendations of fellow participants.
As a result of this low interaction on my posts, I reduced my visits from 10 blogs a day to 5 blogs a day during the last few days of the challenge and then as we reached the end of the alphabet, I decided to only visit the blogs of people who I knew were reading my posts.
All in all, the most frustrating aspect of the 2012 A to Z Challenge was visiting blogs that stopped posting new content and thus were no longer active challenge participants. On many occasions, I came across blogs where the most recent post was for letter F or G -- and we were currently on letter S or something like that.
I can understand a 1-day or even 2-day lag time due to different time zones and daily schedules and household duties, etc. but being behind on several letters means that the blogger gave up on participating a long time ago. So I begin to ask myself “Why should I be reading this blog, ESPECIALLY when I’m not even receiving many comments on my blog and I AM current with my posts?” -- there’s just no excuse.
I enjoyed posting daily during April because it gave me more structure and more discipline in keeping my blog updated with fresh posts. My biggest hurdle was assembling all of the photos, links, game sheets and related elements to go with my blog posts. Aside from that, the task of posting was pretty easy because I only had to copy and paste what I already wrote in advance, find song lyrics that I wanted to accompany these posts and then format it all correctly in my post editor.
I was in New York with very limited, to no computer or internet access, during the first week of the 2012 A to Z Challenge. As a out-of-state resident, I had to pay a few dollars to the Brooklyn library for 30 minutes of computer time -- for which, I used to publish my new post for the day, reply to comments on my blog and visit blogs of fellow A to Z participants.
A week after I returned to Philadelphia, there was a cyber attack on Squarespace, the service where my blog is hosted. So, I quickly published a new post on my Backup Blog, Madlab Post Updates, so that I could use it for my A to Z posts if necessary. It seems that there were attacks on many websites due to some kind of cyber privacy bill being introduced in congress. Thankfully, the Squarespace blogging service was up and running as normal again on the same day that this technical hurdle occurred.
While visiting fellow Challenge participants, I came across a few blogs that were confusing to navigate, which made it difficult for me to comment or read their posts because I didn’t know where their A to Z posts were located, since their blog looked like a website with multiple pages, sections, categories, slideshow headers, etc. the list goes on and on. It would be so much easier for readers if participants made it clear where their A to Z Challenge section is, especially if the A to Z Challenge is not a prominent component of their blog.
In mid-April, I was also summons to attend Jury Duty, which ended up lasting all day long...I’m talkin’ 8-plus hours! Since I had to be there at 8:30 in the morning, that left very little time to get my A to Z blog post up, which was especially challenging since Jury Duty fell on a Monday -- so, I also had to make sure I incorporated the Monday Movie Meme in my blogging activities that day.
I gained a few Twitter followers but did not gain any on Blogger due to my move. To counter this and make it easier for people to follow my blog, I tried to sign up for the linky followers tool but never received the verification email, so that was a bust! A lack of response from the manager of that particulat web tool makes me skeptical about signing up for linky tools as well. So, screw it! Email subscription forms and RSS, Delicious and Pinterest buttons are also on my blog but I don’t think any readers who found me through the A to Z Challenge made use of these following options.
During the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I met three cool bloggers and got re-acquainted with one -- all of whom I plan on keeping in touch with from now on. These bloggers include Ro at Eat, Live, Move where readers can learn about intuitive eating and exercise, Sonia Lal at Story Treasury where you can find flash fiction and book reviews along with additional news in the literary world and last but not least, Angela Brown at In a Pursuit of Publishness where visitors take an enjoyable reading ride with her as she finishes her novel. I am also glad to have met Sydney Aaliyah, a tattoo loving, movie watching, book reading, music listener who blogs about her obsessions and who not only read my blog but also showed me some love on Twitter.
Would I do the A to Z Challenge again?
Yes! I would, however, just skip the blogs that are inactive, so as to manage my visiting time more efficiently.
Do I have pearls of wisdom that I want to share with the co-hosts of this event?
Hmm...not any that I can think of at the moment. I’d just like to thank all of the co-hosts for heading up another fun challenge this year. I also want to send a special thanks to Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out, Damyanti at Amlokiblogs, Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs, Jenny Pearson at Pearson Report, Shannon at The Warrior Muse, Tiny Downey at Life is Good and Matthew MacNish at The QQQE, for reading my blog throughout the year -- challenge or no challenge. You guys (and gals) rock!
Planning and writing posts in advance was one of the best things that I could have done to prepare for the A to Z Challenge. I had nearly half of my posts completed before the challenge began -- maybe all the way up to Letter J (Just the Way You Are), and then I just filled my blog post outlines in as needed after that. Even if I didn’t use all of the posts the way I originally planned them, having an outline for all 26 letters gave me a place to start from without having to come up with blog post ideas on-the-spot.
A quote from Actor Jude Law, who is The Madlab Post’s 2012 May King Dong this month, sums up my reflections on this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge rather nicely...