Okay, I’m going to pontificate a bit on the High School Musical movie franchise and then reflect on the A to Z Challenge and then get into the books so scroll accordingly.
For their final exam, I usually have my students complete a reflection. It’s time for me to do the same now that the spring semester has officially wrapped, and my brain has calmed down enough for me to focus on these things.
So, first, what went well:
I’ve submitted grades for both of my ENGL 400 courses, so I figured today was as good a day as any to do some reflection and talk about these classes.
In my 7:30 a.m. class, one of my students reminded me of Michael Peña’s character in Ant-Man.
So, this is my second year participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and the mods have again asked for reflection posts from participants.
1. I’m going to start by seeing how well I used what I learned last year. In that reflection post, I said that I would (a) use a theme, (b) write my posts in advance, and (c) identify blogs w/shared interests early so I could follow them before the challenge starts.
(a) I did, indeed, use a theme (mine was gratitude). In fact, I really cannot imagine doing this challenge without one. I need the structure.
(b) I did not write my posts in advance. I will probably never write my posts in advance. To be fair, my theme didn’t allow for it since I wrote about something I was grateful for each day. But to also be realistic, I almost never do anything in advance, so.
(c) I did, in fact, identify blogs early on to follow. This was smart. I did find some new blogs throughout the course of the challenge as well, but it was nice to have a starting point.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, my daughter woke up furious with me because I had betrayed her (BETRAYED HER). But she went to work and read some quotes on forgiveness and then she got really cold and had to call and ask me to bring her a sweater, so she forgave me.
Did she forgive me because she wanted/needed something from me or because the quotes seeped into her consciousness? She has decided that it’s a combination platter or, if you prefer, a little from column A and a little from column B.
Since I’m not going to record a video, I thought I’d do a short reflection here about my experience participating in this challenge.
1. Not surprisingly, I paid a lot more attention to what was going on around me since I had to come up with some actual content with at least a modicum of substance.
2. I had fun thinking about how I was going to describe the events that happened.
3. I got a lot of good responses on Facebook to my post with a couple of my friends even saying they really liked what I was posting.
4. My daughter has encouraged me to keep doing the types of posts I have been writing for the challenge. She thinks they’re the most interesting things I have on here (and only a little of that is because of how much she’s featured–so she claims). She said she was actually looking forward to reading my blog. (I don’t think she ever read it before, tbh.)
5. I am definitely going to require my creative writing students to do this as a daily writing exercise. I have not yet decided if I want to also do it with my comp students. I’ll do a pilot with creative writing and see how that goes first.
6. I have, of course, discovered some very cool and awesome blogs/bloggers that I probably would not have otherwise come across.
7. I am proud of myself for writing one post each day, but I am SUPER ANNOYED that I missed posting one of my links to the main page by FIVE MINUTES therefore making me ineligible to win a prize. I was so close to glory.
[7a. Sidenote: I am super competitive and hate losing.]
8. I was keeping up a daily journaling practice at the end of last year/beginning of this year that got derailed when I got sick. Doing this exercise reminded me how valuable of a practice that was. So I’m going to back to it.
Just to be clear: that doesn’t mean I’ll be blogging every day–just that I’ll make sure to clear my head in either my journal or my blog.
So! That was my experience. And because I’m a little nutso, next month (which starts tomorrow!) I’m doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, which means I’m not even giving myself a break from the daily struggle. And, no, I have not planned out any of those posts, though I do have ideas for the letters A and P. (My theme, btw, is gratitude, so I’ll try to find something each day to be grateful for that’s related to the corresponding letter.)
I hope everyone else who participated had a positive experience. And thanks to everyone who stopped by and read my blog this month!
Before I get into all of the really deep reflecting and whatnot, can I just say it felt really good to complete this challenge?
Overall, I really enjoyed Blogging from A to Z. It was a good exercise for me, especially since I plan to participate in Armchair BEA this week (which is much less intense–only five days!) and since I plan to do the Slice of Life challenge next March.
Anyway, here’s what I learned participating in this particular challenge:
1. By labeling this a book blog, I have boxed myself in when it comes to the types of posts I write. I used to be a pretty prolific writer back in my LiveJournal days and before I would overthink every single thing I write. I think the reasons for this are three-fold. (1) This blog is public and attached to my real (first) name and I don’t feel as comfortable sharing as freely. (2) I tend to post little snippets on Facebook, which definitely takes away from the desire to Sit Down and Write a Post. (3) I have branded this as a book blog, so any time I branch out from posts that don’t attach to that label, I get weird about it. So establishing my theme as fannish pursuits gave me a reason and a way to break out of my usual posting habits. I may also need to reconsider my blog’s subtitle if it’s keeping me from posting the way I want.
2. I can write every day if I choose to–and make a public commitment to do so. So, I am an extremely competitive person who HATES losing, so rather than skip a day, I made sure to post–even if it was something short. Most of the really, really short posts I did were because the day was almost over and I didn’t want to miss a day. So I found a short video or picture and typed up one to two or three lines. BUT I STILL MADE THE POST. I didn’t want to break my streak once I got it going.
3. Pre-planning helped. I had most of my posts mapped out–by which I mean that I knew what pretty much every letter was going to cover–before the month started. So even on the days when I was short on time, I was able to bang out a post because I mostly knew where I was going.
4. Spontaneity is good, too. Facebook helped me pick the Usher topic, which may been one of my better posts, and that happened pretty close to the deadline for U. Of course, I was writing about Usher, so.
5. Visiting the five blogs under yours in the sign up linky each day is a noble, but unrealistic goal. At least it is for me. April is one of my busiest months at work (end of the semester)–not to mention I have other blogs I already follow that weren’t participating AND there are so many participants that finding people with shared interests was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I barely had time to write my posts, let alone read other people’s.
Most of the challenges I participate in request that you read/respond to three blogs, and I find that number much more reasonable. Also, it makes more sense for me to visit the blogs above mine rather than below. That is a personal preference, I know, but I just thought I would mention it.
Not to mention, some of the people who were in my suggested five were posting about topics I wasn’t particularly interested in. Which…it happens, and that’s fine. But it still felt like I was breaking some kind of rule if I didn’t visit those particular blogs.
The clear solution is that all the bloggers I already follow should participate in the challenge next time. Obviously.
if when I participate next time, I will:
- use a theme (the structure helped)
- write my posts way in advance (I’m talking probably starting MONTHS in advance, especially since I have found that I can only write 1-2 posts per day)
- identify blogs w/shared interests early (so I can [hopefully] start following them BEFORE the challenge starts)
7. Okay, so the reflections post prompt asks specifically for suggestions, so here are mine:
- The theme reveal link up should be open longer, especially for people like me who didn’t find out about the challenge or decide to participate in the challenge until after the March 21 deadline.
- Rather than linking to someone’s overall blog, the theme link up should link to a reveal post, just like reflections post link up will point to the specific post. Again, some people may not discover the link up until after March 21, and the reveal post may be pushed to the bottom of the page or off the front page of the blog by the time that happens.
- Instead of people putting their blog name in the link up list, they should put their planned theme, so people can see at a glance what someone’s theme may be and THEN click to go to the blog and find out if that’s a blog they want to follow (clicking on blog names just to discover someone’s theme–especially since there are SO MANY participants [500+ in this year’s theme reveal] takes a really long time. And I know and see the blog type codes, but even if someone puts the code for what type of blog they have, that doesn’t mean they’ll be posting on that topic.
- Encourage people to visit three, not five blogs. That way, if they visit more, great! But three is reasonable and should take less than thirty minutes, especially if we’re expected to comment on the blogs as well. Five is a much more considerable investment. At least for me.
- Suggest that people with Blogger blogs turn on anonymous commenting. For some reason, Blogger absolutely hates me and won’t let me sign in with any of my OpenID stuff and boots me any time I try to make a comment. It’s a real barrier to commenting because I’ll just give up. I did Tweet replies at a couple of people, but that takes way more work than it should. So. Allow anonymous commenting. The number of comments on your posts may go up.
And that’s it! I DID IT, YOU GUYS. I SURVIVED.