I’d thought about posting this tomorrow, but consider this a last call for the A to Z blog challenge.
For those who don’t know what that is, the A to Z Blog Challenge is a 30-day event in which bloggers share blog posts following the letters of the alphabet. A list of the rules etc. is here.
As challenges go, this one is devilishly simple: blog Monday through Saturday through April following each letter in order.
Blogs posts have no limit on the number of words, though posts that are on the shorter side seem to have the advantage of finding more readers–though there are always exceptions. Organizers recommend that posts be at least one hundred words long and participants can blog about any subject, though blogs with adult content must be identified at the time of registration.
This is my third year completing the challenge, generally with two different blogs, but this year, with just one blog and just one theme–The Meaningful Minimum: how writers can manage social media as part of a balanced life. I’m on the A to Z list holding down place #1084.
Here are the 7 reasons why I have grown from grousing supporter to enthusiastic appreciator for this well-conceived blogging challenge:
#1 It Puts Your Feet to the Fire
There is nothing like knowing a few thousand friends and would-be friends are blogging daily to make one jump up and join such a robust community spirit, and you will find it in this blog challenge. For me, just knowing that there are people all over the world struggling to improve at the process of daily content creation is enough to remind me that my struggles are hardly unique, and that little bit of a comparative nudge jars me loose from my “can’ts” and into my “cans” moving quickly to the region of how. Since I love a challenge and can’t fail myself without questioning my tenacity, inventiveness, and growth, the extra structure raises my concentration and shows me myself in a new ways.
Blogger Roslynn Pryor at Pushing the Bruise, a blog of what I call “poe-lit-spit” (poetry, literature, spirituality) says of her A to Z experience, “I blend A to Z with NaPoWriMo, combining the daily prompts with the letter of the day. Forcing myself to do these quick draft poems sometimes reveals little treasure bits. It keeps the poetry muscles limber.”
#2 You Learn New Things
Learning happens for A to Z bloggers all through the month of the experience as they find new ways to present their topic, refine their message, or gain an outside look at how someone else faces the challenge. With or without a chosen theme, with nothing more than a willingness to try, writers create an incentive to look deeper at their craft, or a specific subject, or some nuance of the local or wider world. For writers and creatives seeking cross-pollination of ideas, this is a great place from which to draw fresh inspiration.
#3 You Read New Blogs
One of my favorite things about this challenge is the recommendation that you read 6 to 7 other blogs each day you post. I can’t emphasize enough how much fun it is to randomly select other blogs and read them–whatever they may be. Most of the time, I end up finding new blogs to follow and a few have become prized places to look for content. While many blogs are tagged by subject matter, some aren’t classified in any way
I love the lottery-like nature of this daily gamble and the later exchange with friends about great blogs to check out in the future. While no one forces you to read for others, I’ve learned that this is where the real joy can be found and the more other blogs you read, the more you connect to this vibrant community which leads me to…
#4 Comments, Comments, and More Comments
There is nothing like writing into the void and feeling the vast array of insignificance which happens when you write alone. Comments from other writers can be heady things which quell the wolves of isolation. It’s great to receive comments from other people and, I would argue, even more fun to write something you believe for someone you’ve never even met. I’m a big sucker for the feeling that I read hard, wrote a worthy comment, made a difference or provided encouragement to someone who needed it that day.
On the flip side, the A to Z blog challenge has a group of bloggers who stop by to check if you are on track with the challenge as evidenced by daily writing, and its fascinating to feel the effect of these random visits which double as intermittent reinforcement. Like disembodied guardian spirits, they contribute to the magic of the month and the feeling that kind beings are close at hand ready to lend necessary aid.
#5 Follow Me, Follow You
The greatest increases in blog followers have always happened for me during the A to Z blog challenge, but not surprisingly, it’s a two way street. Like most forms of social media, this community relies on fair exchange, unless, of, course your content just happens to hit the societal sweet spot, like one of these short examples from Mashable.
#6 Purposeful Planning
There are people who engage in the challenge, writing on a daily basis, but many more plan their posts far in advance. Whichever style you choose to employ, thinking ahead can make lighter work and more fun during the challenge, and I’ve watched at least one friend cruise in style with all 26 posts scheduled before Day 1 begins. In other ways, too, your blog benefits when you plan ahead. Here is a list of smart ideas from blogger Solveig Warner about how you can ready your blog for the upcoming challenge.
# 7 Have It Your Way
One year, I wrote an A to Z of events from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition; another time, I was so desperate, I took any topic which fit my letter for that day. One friend wrote marvelous erotic haikus and other poems in a coded blog which was itself a puzzle to discover. The point is, you have enormous control over the manner and style of your expression. I’ve have posts of a few words and a couple of choice images, and longer posts that happened to match my emotion of the day. One thing I have found is that each year, I’ve come away from this experience proud having mastered a few new skills. One of those skills, how to blog daily, has been transformed into my own year-long blogging challenge , a task I would have never undertaken had it not been for the months of experience I garnered each year in A to Z.
So, if you are feeling the call of the wild, it’s not too late to join the fun. Even if you fail to finish, there’s no A to Z police to come and impound your blog or take away your firstborn post. Perhaps you’ll find, as many have done, that the A to Z can set you free–free from uncertainty, writing paralysis, and doubt as it throws open a creative floodgate.
If you’d like to register to join the challenge, here’s a direct link to that page.