"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

The April A - Z blogging challenge - lessons learned


I've recently completed the A - Z blogging challenge for April - my first ever - with 26 posts highlighting favourites (or oddities) from my eclectic music collection that spans probably well over 40 years. The challenge was nothing like the one pictured above, but was still a good experience and I learned some really helpful lessons about blogging. I also "met" some great people, and discovered that there are some things I'd probably do differently if I ever decide to participate again.

So here's a roundup of the 2018 challenge from my perspective.

#1. Make your decision to participate early!
I didn't. I left it until only a few days before the challenge started to finally decide I was doing this thing! Better late than never, I guess - well maybe, but it would have been easier if I'd planned it in time for the "theme reveal" in the middle of March. I missed that. My only saving grace is that my blog is so new right now, and I don't really have any followers as such, so a theme reveal post probably would have gone largely unnoticed. But if I ever participate again, I'll be more organised and deliberate about it. Honestly, it's totally not like me to be so last minute..........

#2. Write about something you enjoy (but that's not too difficult)
I decided on a fun and pretty frivolous topic because I didn't want to find myself stuck trying to think of some deep and meaningful wisdom for a letter like Q or X!! Maybe that was a bit of a cop-out, but in the end it was hard enough finding musical selections for these letters, let alone worthwhile words. I had lots of fun writing my posts, reminiscing about music in my collection from years past - some from childhood even - as well as some of those emotional attachments that seem to stick with songs encountered during particular seasons of life.

#3. Don't use the A - Z post letters as the main picture
Not that they weren't great, a lovely design, and saved me from having to find 26 appropriate photos throughout the month! No, they really were a time-saver for me and I truly appreciated the effort that went in to preparing all the great resources for participants........... BUT.......... using the letters meant that as the month progressed, my blog started to look extremely homogeneous - in fact by the middle of the month every post everywhere I looked on my blog looked pretty much the same. My menus started to look the same, because the "featured" post, the "popular posts" and the "you might also like" had the same, same, same image (apart from a different letter each day).

If there's a next time, I'll use the letters elsewhere on each page, but put other pictures in the main spot. I'm looking forward to my blog regaining a bit of variety in its appearance over the next few weeks!

#4. Keep posts short(ish)
I'm terrible at this, I just love to ramble on, but I think I didn't do too badly, all things considered (in other words, considering I'm usually pretty verbose).

#5. Schedule posts
I learned how to do this by a little bit of experimenting and then some troubleshooting, and it turned out to be the BEST THING!! I had all my posts written and scheduled early in April, and then I could spend the rest of the month replying to comments, browsing new blogs, or working on future posts. I also realised that if I'd had to write and post every day throughout the month I would not have lasted very long with the challenge. My work days are so busy and I have so little time for any blogging during the week, I'm very thankful I learned how to schedule!

#6. Be wary of YouTube clips
I found that occasionally the YouTube clip I'd linked would not work, and I couldn't check this until after the post had gone live. I noticed this on other blogs too from time to time. There may be a way to check that it's working before posting, but if so I couldn't work it out. So I ended up having to quickly check posts daily, when I'd hoped that having already written and scheduled them I could just "set and forget". Lesson learned.

#7. Respond to comments
It's such a great way to connect with other bloggers, and everyone is so very encouraging and affirming. It also allowed me to "meet" bloggers whose pages I may never have discovered if they hadn't commented on mine. However, I realise that as a newbie blogger, it was easy to keep up with comments, whereas some of my blogging companions received loads of comments on each post. That would have overwhelmed and undone me very quickly, so if it happens in the future I may need to rethink this particular tip.

#8. Comment on other participants' posts
The more you comment, the more other people visit your blog too. It's so important to be an encourager of other bloggers, but not just for the sake of it. Still, even if you don't agree with the overall direction of the content of a post, you can usually find something encouraging to write.

#9. Explore the blogs of other participants
I enjoyed discovering and exploring some great blogs from the master list that's provided for participants. Blogs that I'll visit again now that the challenge is over.

#10. Just give it a go! 
No, there's no prize for "winning" (getting to the end of the challenge) and likewise no penalty for "retiring" halfway through. I think if I hadn't had all the posts completed so early in the month, then I'm not sure I would have lasted the distance. The middle of my weeks, when I'm at work, would have been my undoing I suspect. And if I'd had to pull out partway through, then really that would have been okay (although I think I'd have been disappointed in myself).


So, these are my 10 lessons learned from participating in this year's challenge. I'm not going to commit either way for next year, but will just wait and see how the year unfolds!

How was your A - Z challenge?

4 comments

  1. Congrats on making it to the end of A-Z! Some great tips in there that I'll consider if I ever want to take up the challenge :-).

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  2. Hi Sue - this was a perfect round-up (I hope you're linking it to today's wrap up link for the AtoZ) So many of your tips are things I've learned through the three years I've done the AtoZ - I used the letters last year (changed the colour but still the same format) and found the same thing you did - too much of the same thing everywhere. The commenting and visiting is the hardest part time wise, but so worthwhile when it comes to getting to know more bloggers and finding like minded friends all over the place. I'm already thinking about doing it again next year (I'm thinking I might need therapy!)

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    1. Leanne I'm not even going there yet!! xx

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