Reflecting on the A to Z Challenge

As usual, I was quite late to the party. It wasn’t last minute for a change, but still quite late. By the time I found out about the A to Z Challenge there was only about a month to go before it started.

Now I can say my armchair travel round-the-world trip from Auckland to Zanzibar was a success, but it took a while to get there.

“How hard can it be to write 26 posts, A to Z?” I asked myself. Well, turns out, a lot harder than I thought. What could I blog about that would give me 26 posts from A to Z? At first I tried to keep in line with the theme of this blog. Something study related, maybe? Maybe not. So, literature, then. It had to be literature. How about book reviews? Had I read books that correspond to every letter of the alphabet? I made a list and found it lacking. I could have scraped by, but some entries would have required more research than they were worth, plus the whole translation issue – it turned iffy before I had even started.

Think, think, think. What else could I write about? After all I wanted to keep the readers I already had, possibly gain a few more and not bore them to death. I had actually planned NOT to write about my travels. Although I am a travel journalist, I felt that travelogues wouldn’t fit with this blog’s theme. I have had travel blogs before and even a self-published travel magazine for six issues, but my blogging skills were not up to par back then. And then April 1 came closer and closer and I grew more desperate. I ran the letters. Funnily enough some of the “hard” ones like Q, Y and Z were easy to fill. For once my near-obsessive photo-taking would pay off. So on the day of the Theme Reveal I switched it from Childhood Books to Postcards.

I used to have a semi-regular column in my local daily newspaper, called “Postcards from…” and thought I’d do little filler pieces like that. But then I figured: this is my chance. I could show my travel writing style and photo skills to a wider audience.

April 1 hit with full force, but fresh out of the door I decided to post two pieces. Auckland and Alice Springs. Two of five destinations I had earmarked. I figured I had time to spare, finishing the first post early. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer more than one post? I’d set myself a Camp NaNoWriMo target of 10,000 words, knowing I’d use the travel posts for the word count. So if I wrote 26 pieces at 380 or more words I’d be fine. I ended up averaging 1,030 words per day for 30 days.

Then the challenge got fully underway and finding time to write was getting harder. Sometimes it’d been a while since my visit. Frantic call to my mum. “Hey, remember that one place with the Roman architecture we visited that one time 20 years ago for that school holiday challenge thingy? That was Xanten, wasn’t it?? Please say it was or I’ll have to find another place starting with X!”

My year as an exchange student in New Zealand was still crystal clear in my memory despite the 11 years it’s been now. My Gap Year round-the-world-trip was equally unforgettable. But in-between and since? Where had I been? England, mostly. But that’d get boring fairly quickly. There are, after all, only so many nice things I have to say about Southport, Merseyside (my home for the last 3 years I was in the UK).

The writing was never the problem. As a journalist I’m used to tight deadlines, and I was passionate about the subject matter. The real challenge was going through tens of thousands of photos to find the best ones, make them smaller and add copyright to each and every one of them. It took ages. My lovely plan of posting more than one post became unfeasible very fast.

And I had to make some harsh decisions. London, L.A., Luxembourg, Land’s End, Leconfield Farm or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? Solingen, Sydney, San Francisco, Serengeti or Stonehenge?

I’d have loved to show you around London, and Llanfair P.G. would have been a funny anecdote. In the end, I decided to use an article I had written for my B.A. Final Project (a travel magazine named Shoestring) about Leconfield Farm because I was running out of time. A few times I posted late when life and my studies had caught up with me but I’m proud I stuck it out.

I tried to visit other blogs during the challenge and followed quite a few. But with over 1,500 participants in the original A to Z Linky, I couldn’t really do them all justice. While I read some posts in detail, skim-read some others and liked a lot of them, I barely commented. I’m really bad at that. It’s not that I didn’t like the post or had nothing to say, but commenting often took a lot of time. And I still don’t get Blogspot/Blogger. How do you follow those blogs and comment without having to go through the seven circles of hell verification??

“Confirm you’re not a robot. Enter the 57-digit pin-code including numbers, symbols and at least one letter in upper and lowercase, do the secret handshake, wait until the full moon and sacrifice a first-born.” All I wanted to do was like a post and say “well done.” (The ritual previously described may or may not have been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect.) Still, though.

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that

I made a few new friends during the challenge and really enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I’m slowly working my way through the list.

However, I have also learned my lesson. Pantsing a big challenge like this is probably not the cleverest way to go. In contrast, I have scheduled ahead 18 days worth of Songs Of The Day in one afternoon.

The A to Z Challenge was fun, but I will definitely plan ahead for the next one. And not being in the middle of a M.A. degree would probably help as well.

I’ll try to incorporate more travel writing and photography on Study.Read.Write. Doing a High School exchange year in New Zealand, a work experience Gap Year and studying full-time abroad in England all qualify for the Study tag of this blog, after all.

But for now, enjoy the music and armchair travel. And thank you for travelling the world with me!

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8 thoughts on “Reflecting on the A to Z Challenge”

  1. The part about commenting on Blogger posts made me laugh so hard. There were many blogs that I wanted to comment on, but in the end, I had to just give up after a while.

    Like you, I will plan ahead next year…but then I say that every year… without success.
    Great reflection Post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though I planned well in advance (chose theme/topics in January, wrote most posts in March), I still had some frantic moments during the challenge. Your challenge went really well, and because of your extensive traveling you could do another jaunt around the world for next year’s challenge and use those cities/attractions then!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love your reflection. Lots to chuckle over – especially “don’t have time for that”. I plan to start visiting more of the blogs – so many great themes. This was my first time and I enjoyed it but had to play catchup near the end. But I did finish.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m on Blogger and I turned off the verification thing in my settings, but it was years before I knew it was on. It’s the default setting, ha-ha! I also found that selecting pictures took up a lot of time. I grabbed mine from Flickr and Wikipedia to make sure I picked ones that were legal to use. Choosing the perfect one took forever and then the ones from Flickr had a tendency to vanish from my files the second I hit publish. Very odd.

    Like

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