A to Z roundup

Woohoo, I survived the A to Z challenge! I hope everyone had fun following along as I went through some of the details of how I make silver beads. I realized afterward that the only tool that I didn’t write about during the challenge were my carving tools, so I figured that I would cover them off here ;) The flatter blades on the left are good for cutting out the clay. I also use them and the rounded point of the top tool to blend clay that I join together. I don’t think I’ve ever used the jagged edge of the bottom tool! And I swear that I had three tools at one point …

I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about how I felt about the challenge now that it’s done. It’s not how I thought I would feel going in.

I had a rough idea of what I was going to write about for each letter before I committed to participating, so I felt fairly confident signing up. But, I still wanted to be prepared. So, in mid-January, I started writing. I revised a few as I went (for example, T was supposed to be Torch, but I combined the information with K for Kiln since they overlapped too much). And I had to do a bit of a push the last week of March. But, by the start of the challenge, I had written all of the posts and only needed five or six of the pictures for some of the later letters.  During the challenge, I reviewed the next day’s post every day to add any cross-links and make sure that there wasn’t anything that I missed, which was interesting since it allowed me to reacquaint myself with the content I had written weeks before.

I know what you’re thinking: you pre-wrote all of your posts?!? Cheater! CHEATER!! I know because at first I thought the same. But, I actually got the idea from the official A to Z Challenge website which suggests pre-writing and scheduling posts. Still, looking back, I also know that this is where my feelings about the challenge got a bit muddy.

Because I wrote the 26 posts during the ten weeks before the challenge started, it didn’t feel as much like a blogging challenge; it felt like more like a posting challenge. And it’s not much of a challenge to hit “Publish” once a day. To be honest, I didn’t even do that. When I finished a post, I scheduled it for the correct day so that my drafts list was more manageable (on top of the 26 A to Z posts, I had another 15 or so posts in various states and I was losing track of which posts were done and which needed more content).

On the other hand, having all of my posts done before the challenge started meant that I had time to respond to comments on my posts and to read and comment on other sites in the challenge. And, I’m not really sure how I would have done that if I also had to write posts as I went! By the time we hit D or E, I was already behind reading and commenting on the blogs that I planned on following. By the time we hit G, I had given up commenting regularly on a few of the blogs, although I was still reading the posts because they were interesting. I felt bad not commenting, but I also felt like my comments should have some substance to them and even the comments that I was leaving felt shorter than I wanted them to be.

So, would I do it again? You know, I probably would.

I didn’t get the sense of accomplishment that I thought I would from the challenge. But, I’ve realized that I didn’t really go into it to force myself to blog every day. I went into it to stretch my creativity. To try something new. And to really think about what I like about metal clay and what challenges me about it. I also didn’t feel like I had many resources when I started, so I wanted to write down some of what I’ve learned in case there are others who are looking for information. I feel like I accomplished all of that. And, maybe I even inspired a few people to try out metal clay!

I’m sorry if my posts scared you off instead! Really, it’s lots of fun!

One resolution done, two more to go!

Edited to add: It sounds like I was more disappointed in the challenge than not, and I absolutely wasn’t! It just wasn’t what I expected it to be. But, that has everything to do with my expectations and nothing to do with the challenge or the way that it was run. Truthfully, I did feel a little disappointed just before the challenge started because I had all of my posts finished and so it was a bit anti-climactic. But writing 26 posts over ten weeks, which is still 2.5ish posts a week, on top of what I was publishing over those ten weeks was still an accomplishment for me. I think my largest disappointment is that I wasn’t able to keep up with as many sites as I wanted to. I started with a list of ten sites to follow and that list grew to 14 over the course of the challenge. To me, that doesn’t seem like that much. But, I often wasn’t able to start reading until 8:30 or later at night, so that really only gave me an hour and a half to respond to comments on my posts and read and comment on others’ posts. Maybe I’m just a slow reader? :D But finding new sites to follow and meeting new people through them was really fun! So, my disappointment over the anti-climactic start to the challenge was far outweighed by my enjoyment of seeing what people came up with for every letter. Such a diverse crowd!

I love that the challenge is flexible so that you can make it whatever you want to make it. But, I think the true benefit of the challenge is that – no matter how you manage the challenge on your site – it introduces you to so many other great sites. I’ve following along with Mars the last two years that she did the challenge, but just knowing about the challenge wasn’t enough to push me to seek out new sites. Participating in the challenge is what really encouraged me to find the new sites and I’m really happy that I did.

Tip for the future: as soon as you find a site that you think you’ll want to follow, take down the URL! There were several sites that I found early on that I wanted to go back to, but I forgot to grab the URL and couldn’t find it in my browser history.


    1. I’m not sure why your comment wouldn’t have come through, but thanks very much for stopping by! :)

  1. Congrats on completing A-Z! I definitely think a big part of the challenge is in the commenting and responding to comments on your blog with less emphasis on the A-Z blog posts part. I mean – yes, that can be a challenge in itself, especially if you don’t have posts already scheduled, but the real problem I ran into was commenting and keeping up with comments, especially since I was using the 2015 list on accident! oops! :)

    Hopefully you are able to be more successful with commenting next year. It’s totally worth the experience getting to meet new and different people all the while learning so much about the world!

    1. Thank you!

      I definitely think that I underestimated the amount of time to read and give a somewhat meaningful comment on 10-15 posts a day :D I will have to think about how to manage that next year since I suspect that my list is just going to grow longer! And there are so many sites that I never even got to. But, you are right, the connections that you make are equally as important as the posts themselves.

      That is too bad that you got sidetracked with the 2015 participants list for so long.

  2. Defintely not cheating to prewrite, that’s normally what the more experienced participants do! As you’ve said it’s still a lot more writing than you would normally do even if it’s spread out… and I loved your theme, it was so much fun to find out more about the practical side of things and as I was doing a bit of clay related stuff myself it was actually really helpful and useful straight away!

    I think the A to Z Challenge is equally about, if not more about, the blog hop and the discovery of blogs we’d not normally read, or even discover without the challenge… if I hadn’t of taken part, I really wanted to blog hop, but in all honesty if I wasn’t involved in writing/posting/replying to comments I think I would have visited even less blogs even though technically I would have had lots of time.

    To add to your URL saves tip – I set up a bookmark folder before the challenge starts and start adding the link of every blog I visit, once we’re a few days in I start to stick them into 3 folders, everyday, weekly and blogs I’ve commented on.

    If I’ve visited and either I can’t comment or find out how to, or if I really can’t get on with the post I don’t save them… unless I think it’s just that day’s post and they’re worth a revisit… I’ve got a lot more harsh about these things in my 3rd year, and I don’t want to leave just a hi comment if I can help it.

    So glad you met your first resolution, excellent theme!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. The more I read, the more it seems like prewriting is pretty common :D But it felt very “dirty” when I was doing it, even though I got the idea from the challenge site.

      About halfway through, I realized that it would have been much better to make bookmarks for sites instead of just copying the name into a list :D

      I am glad that you enjoyed my series and that it was even relevant to you so soon :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading your A-Z challenge. I did start commenting on each post, and whilst I read each day I stopped commenting because of a combination of things.

    I think if pre writing is your behavioural style then be proud of being planned and organised. Blogs to me allow everyone to express themselves and to be unique in the world. There is no such thing IMO as a perfect way to do something, and finding what works and what feels comfortable is what counts.

    1. That is very true – the challenge is not so much to pigeon-hole people into doing something in just one way, but to actually inspire different things. And thank you for your comments, I appreciated each one! For years, I have blogged mostly for myself (on several different blogs) but although I would continue to blog even if I got not comments, it is definitely fun to have these mini conversations with people in the comments :)

  4. I think it was a very smart move to pre-write your A-Z posts. I did not do that and, I can tell you, the challenge of writing, posting, commenting and looking at other blogs was overwhelming and almost impossible. For someone who works full time, it would have been impossible! In my case, it took a good 4-5 hours of every day, meaning that I could not do anything else, like writing articles or my book, which – honestly – would have been a better use of my time. I regret as well that I did not have enough time left to expand my blogs to read list!

    1. Looking back, I don’t think that I could have done the challenge if I hadn’t pre-written the posts. Originally I thought I would just jot down short notes for each letter when I was coming up with my original list. But, as soon as the challenge started and I realized how much time it took to look at new sites and follow the list that I had found during the theme reveal, I was happy that I had. I will definitely be thinking of how I can visit more sites next year (just need to come up with a theme for my own blog ;))

  5. I pre wrote all my posts this year too, and while I’m glad I did so I had more time to visit the blogs I really missed writing daily. I think I will still be pre-writing next year though :)

    1. Yes, I think that pre-writing is the way to go and I would definitely do it again (with less guilt about it now ;)) I was still working on upcoming posts, so I was still writing new content a few days a week, but I didn’t feel like I could post anything outside the A to Z challenge during the month of April (I know there’s no rules against it, I just didn’t want to mix up the two).

  6. This is my first A to Z. I hopped on late with the intent to revive my blogging activity. Only later did I have the light bulb moment that it is way more useful for engagement. So if I do it again, I will have absolutely no qualms about preparing as much as possible in advance with scheduled posts so I can devote more time to engagement. At least the engagement piece has no start/end date, so I can do it year-round without the pressure of a deadline :)

    1. You know, I never really even thought about the engagement portion until after I started, either. I really just wanted to do something outside of what I normally did. So, I really joined the challenge for me :D But, the engagement is really what drives the challenge in my mind. Now that I know that, if I do the challenge again, I would definitely focus on making sure that I could visit more blogs each day.

  7. Pre-writing posts is absolutely NOT cheating! As you said, it’s exactly what the A2Z hosts recommend—and, quite honestly, it’s the only way to get through the Challenge with some bits of sanity left over, haha (which explains why we pantsters who pre-write nothing—in spite of yearly resolutions to do so—spend most of May trying to remember who we are and what our purpose in life is :D ). Kudos to you for doing this so well, Tracy… You really aced it!

    1. Before I started, I really did think that it would be cheating though! :D When I saw the post that suggested pre-writing, well let’s just say that to say that I was happy would be an understatement. And, yet, I still signed up for the challenge when I thought that I really did have to write every day. So, clearly I thought that I could accomplish that in some way. But, I think that I need that time to ruminate over my words and that I probably produced something better by having the time to pre-write the posts. I do admire the people who can put out quality content daily, though!

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