“Would I even tell me story, would I even sang my song, if nobody sang along? Would I take the time to write it, would I say what’s on my mind, if nobody sang along?” – Chrisette Michele from the album Let Freedom Reign
Some of the lyrics in R&B singer Chrisette Michele’s song “If Nobody Sang Along” strike a chord with my discerning whether blogging is a waste of time, especially where the A-Z Challenge is concerned. Among the factors leading to my “Mixed Bag of Tricks” theme for 2015 was my refusal to write a blog post for April that involved any more extraordinary work than necessary for me.
I made this decision in an attempt to cut back on the amount of effort, time and energy involved in writing A-to-Z Challenge posts on this blog. After receiving little response from the A-Z community overall last year and again this time around, on many of the posts that I worked hard on (spending hours and sometimes days even, writing and assembling them), I believe it would behoove me to continue blogging in the best interest of my readers and myself.
Who’s All this for?
I started doing the A-Z challenge because it seemed like a fun way to add some structure and consistence to my blogging activities while building a more disciplined writing practice. Aside from also being a requirement for Co-Hosts, I continued doing the challenge because it has always motivated me to blog more often throughout the rest of the year. I gladly credit the A-Z challenge as one of the influences behind my decision to make editorial calendars – sometimes I follow these blogging plans, and sometimes I don’t but it’s still nice to have ideas floating around for those times when you experience a case of writer’s block.
Ever since being invited to Co-Host the A-Z Challenge by its founder, Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out, I’ve been Co-Hosting because I view it as a great way to support the man behind the annual event that brings people from all over the world together. Co-Hosting has also served as an effective way to give back to the blogathon that helped me find some direction as a blogger.
Doing the challenge this year put many blogs on my radar, as they featured interesting topics including Manzanita’s post on Aging at Wanna Buy a Duck, Lisa’s recount of her days aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln while working as a postal clerk for the U.S. Navy at Tales from the Love Shaque and Notes Along the Way – Mary Montague Sikes, who made 19 paintings during her journey through the alphabet! It was refreshing to see an artist participating in the A-Z Challenge this year since the blog hop is usually dominated with themes involving books, poetry, short stories, writing tips, publishing tips and related areas of the literary field.
David Powers King at The Cosmic Laire of Science Fiction and Fantasy collaborated with Al Diaz at Dragon on a Mission for a nice tribute to Tina Downey in his A-Z Challenge theme presenting character portraits from on his novel Woven.
My fellow Co-Host Lauren Hennessy's "Movie Smackdown" was one of my most favorite of all A-Z themes; I always looked forward to reading her posts, had fun voting for the flicks I thought should win the battle and enjoyed learning about what other participants thought about the competing films. During one of the A-Z Twitter chats, Co-Host Csenge pointed out Hannah Givens’ cool A-Z theme on LGBT Comics Characters at Things Matter. It was nice to learn some things about Batwoman including some DC Comics staff quitting when the company took marriage off the table for this superheroine.
Another fellow Co-Host, Susan Gourley introduced me to a good quote by Marilyn Von Savant in her A-Z blog posts...
"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent." - Marilyn Von Savant
Thanks to Adriana Gabrielle at The Librarian Files, I learned about a movie called The Maze Runner that I’ll now probably watch. Luther M. Siler’s music theme for the A-Z Challenge at Infinite Free Time rocks and took me back to the 90s when women, particularly female rappers like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, had something to say and weren't afraid to say it. After meeting Debra McKellan during one of the A-Z Twitter chats, I enjoyed her theme of “colors for descriptive purposes in writing,” the hospitable nature of her posts and her very brief and concise posting style. I also enjoyed learning about what it's like to live overseas in A Beginner's Survival Guide to Living in Maui.
Although London-based Julie Fisher ran out of steam soon after reaching the A-Z Challenge midway mark at From Julie with Mixed Feelings, I like her April theme on Lesbian Culture and its portrayal in media. Julie’s blog post highlighting Ellen Degeneres and the comedian’s career as an openly lesbian actress, talk show host and author, is one that I especially enjoyed reading – partly because I’ve always loved Ellen’s style and hair and partly because Julie’s use of "celesbrians," when referring to her favorite lesbian celebrities, is cute and made me laugh.
Although Sridevi Datta at The Write Journey is among the many who didn’t complete the challenge, the blog posts she did put up were interesting to read and I think she had something good with her theme on "tracing the inner journey of being a woman.” I also have a lot of respect for travel blogger Michelle Tran at Michelle Tran Writes, who did what she could and then bowed out of the A-Z challenge gracefully while honoring the give-and-take nature of participating that’s meant to benefit everyone involved in this April blogathon.
Unfortunately, my participation in the A-Z challenge left much to be desired in terms of traffic, comments and/or subscribers. More people visited my blog during summer 2014 and in December 2014 than they did last month. I wish I could say I’m surprised but given the dismal results from my month of Why We Make Movies, this drop in traffic appears to be a trend during spring. The lack of visits in April concerns me, considering that there were nearly two thousand blogs on the 2015 A-Z Challenge list. That’s a LOT of people, many of whom obviously didn’t make their way over to my blog within the last thirty days.
Is it my song or yours?
While visiting A-Z Challenge participating blogs, I noticed many with little to no comments. There were times when I was the first or third person to comment on posts written by people who were actively blogging every day in April. That makes so sense given that there were a lot of other blogs with at least 40 comments on their posts, if not more. Due to these experiences, I think there may be a significant amount of A-Z participants who are doing the challenge but are not visiting other blogs on the list.
While I understand that being located near the top of the signup list may have affected the amount of comments, visits, etc. I received, other blogs near the middle or bottom of the list had similar experiences.
Based on these findings, my guess is the visiting activities weren't spread as evenly as us organizers hoped, even after we urged participants to visit five-blogs-a-day starting with the blogs near their position on the list. Co-Hosting brings with it the responsibility of making the challenge a fun experience for all participants involved, which meant I’ve spent a lot of time in April 2015 fielding questions and troubleshooting issues on the backend while also promoting the challenge, despite not really benefitting -- in the ways I thought would -- from this very same event that I was telling other people to join. As a result, it felt like I was in a position where I had to make everyone else’s experience a pleasant one despite mine being pretty lackluster in comparison.
Am I the Superstar, or are You?
I Blog for myself and for my readers -- to provide them with entertainment, inspiration and knowledge. Thus, I must make sure that my blogging activities are in line with what best serves this purpose. Trying to engage A -Z Bloggers in profound conversations or even getting people to visit has come at a great loss of some of the joys I find in blogging. I prefer to not sacrifice the solace that this space provides me nor the type of content provided to my readers, just to participate in a month-long sprint that causes frustration. I get enough of that dealing with the madness of independent filmmaking.
Going forward, my plans are to focus on the activities and people who are paying attention, so I don't know what's in store for me in terms of whether I'll do the A-Z Challenge again or not. We’ll just cross that bridge when 2016 gets here, as it will be determined in part by (regular) readers of The Madlab Post and whether participating fits with any April blogging plans that I may already have for 2016. New visitors are icing on the cake but the people who return on a regular day prior to, and after, April are the ones for whom I continue to update this blog with new content. Much like Chrisette Michele, I’ll continue to tell my story and keep singing my song. This time around, however, I will be doing it for (and with) the people who actually sing along.
Thank you to all who have visited my blog during the 2015 A-Z Challenge including Co-Hosts such as C. Lee McKenzie at The Write Game, Jeremy at Hollywood Nuts, Pam at An Unconventional Librarian, Matthew MacNish at The QQQE, AJ Lauer and John Holton as well as those of you who came by for the first time. Also thanks to my Mighty Minion Bureau assets Sydney Aaliyah Michelle, Vidya Sury and Melanie Shulz for helping me monitor the list and offer words of encouragement to participating bloggers.