The A to Z Challenge

A to Z Reflections

Wednesday, May 04, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

I just completed my first Blogging from A to Z Challenge where I posted to the blog every day during the month of April (except Sundays) . . . alphabetically. I wasn’t alone. There were 1347 other masochists people in cyberspace typing frantically along with me and now that it’s over, it’s time to reflect on the experience. But before I do, I have a confession to make: I’m not really all that “into” blogging. I started ours solely to replace those annoying mass e-mails people send out to keep friends and family updated and it kind of grew from there when it was picked up by a local online boating magazine. But the Blogging from A to Z Challenge may have changed that.

Honestly, I’m not sure why I decided to sign up in the first place other than Ellen over at The Cynical Sailor did it last year and it looked like fun. I’m pretty sure that’s only because she was the one slaving over blog posts like a maniac while I read them at my leisure because the reality is that it’s not fun at all. It’s blogging on steroids and called a “challenge” for a reason. But as difficult and time-consuming as it was, I genuinely enjoyed the experience (if that makes any sense). So much so that I’m already thinking about next year and what I want to do to tackle it more efficiently. In the meantime though, here are some thoughts on the experience:

Things I Learned
  • Writing a blog post every day is a lot harder than it sounds.
  • Writing some of the posts in advance is the only way to survive (for me).
  • Having an overall theme for the 26 blogs helped make the process easier.
  • It was fun to do the challenge with a group of people who had similar interests.
  • There are a lot of fantasy world/science fiction blogs out there.
  • The most difficult letter in the alphabet is X.
Things I Gained from the Experience
  • I “met” several new people and was introduced to a wide range of new blogs (some I followed every day and others I bookmarked for later).
  • Sitting down every day to write was time consuming but a good habit to form.
  • The experience helped me re-focus my attention on the blog after a long winter break and got me excited about blogging again.
Challenges I Met
  • We got back to Cambria on April the 3rd after a four-month absence and were busy prepping the boat for the cruising season at the same time. Trying to balance the demands of the challenge (writing every day, reading at least five other blogs, commenting on said blogs, and responding to my own comments) with my responsibilities on board was more difficult than I’d anticipated.
  • Having a blog ready to post 26 days out of 30.
  • Living in the Pacific Time Zone was a surprising downside. I found my blog posts did better if I scheduled them to go live by 4:00 am local time so the folks taking part on the East Coast could read them with their morning coffee.
Things I’ll Do Differently Next Year
  • I had 15 posts written before the challenge started on April 1st and it wasn’t nearly enough, so I’ll write more in advance the next time.
  • I want to choose a couple of blogs at random from the list of participants every day to explore more. I tended to stick to the same ones unless someone commented on a post of mine. If they did, I returned the favour and discovered a few gems along the way, and I think it’d be fun to discover a few more.
  • I’ll write shorter posts. Not only will it be easier for me, but for my readers as well.
One of the reasons for participating in a blog hop or a challenge is to expand your readership and promote your blog. Like I said earlier, I haven’t really been “into” blogging or put a lot of (consistent) effort into it, so my numbers probably don’t reflect the average but I thought it’d be fun to share them anyway along with information on some of the blogs that I followed.

The Numbers
  • During the month of April, my daily traffic increased by approximately 25% and remained consistent throughout the month.
  • Before the challenge, I averaged 0.5 comments per post, in April that increased to 8.6.
  • I added 16 new Facebook likes for the month (I forgot to check Twitter and Instagram).
  • I read an average of 10 blogs posts per day.
  • I commented on at least 5 of those posts per day.
Sailing Blogs I Added to my Reading List
  • The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick. I actually discovered this blog a couple of years ago and have been a fan ever since. Ellen has a great sense of humour and a love of chocolate that never fails to shine through her writing. If you’re looking for something to read, I highly recommend her A to Z Challenge: Nancy Drew and the Case of the Missing Anchor. You won’t be disappointed. 
  • The Larks of the Independence. Lucy, Matt and Hastings (best dog name ever!) live aboard a Lagoon 380 based in Florida and will be dropping their lines this month to start a five year journey. Their theme for the challenge was boaty stories wrapped in British slang, so if you’d like to learn how to speak like a Cockney (or even if you don’t), you should check them out. 
  • Little Cunning Plan. Another favourite blog of mine that I discovered in 2014 through Three Sheets Northwest, Melissa and Mike are local to Puget Sound and are preparing their boat and themselves to drop their lines and head south in 2017. Melissa, who’s a licensed psychotherapist, chose anxiety as a theme for the challenge and her series is an excellent resource for anyone considering the cruising lifestyle, sailing, or has an anxious mind. 
  • Life Afloat. This is a new-to-me blog but it really shouldn’t be. Jaye has been writing for awhile and is active in the cruising blog community as one of the topic coordinators over at The Monkey’s Fist. Her theme for the challenge was downsizing and living simply – whether it be on a boat or on shore – and gives great insight into the lifestyle. 
  • Roaming About. Liesbet and her husband lived and cruised aboard a catamaran for eight years before selling it recently and are house/pet sitting while they take a break. Her theme was the nomadic lifestyle and she offers great insight into what it means to be a world traveler. 
  • ‘Til the Butter Melts. Keith and Nikki plan to sail south along the Intracoastal Waterway this August from their home port in Maine until the butter in the bilge melts. They didn’t have an official theme for the challenge but chose 26 interesting topics that they related to cruising, sailing and living-aboard.    
Non-Sailing Blogs I Added to my Reading List
Thanks to everyone for following along and helping us mark our 15th year of living-aboard and cruising. It was a blast!

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  1. Thanks so much for the shout out! I really loved all your A-Z posts and am glad we "met" through this challenge. -Lucy

    1. Same here, Lucy. It was a lot of fun doing the challenge with you and I'm really looking forward to following you guys on your journey!

  2. This is a great reflections post!

    I found Albom Adventures when I lived in New Zealand and met Rhonda while I was there. I was interested in the fact that she too was an American ex-pat living in NZ. She was the first blogger that I ever met - she's a fun lady it it was fun to meet her. Now, I've met so many other bloggers and hopefully will meet you too one of these days :-)

    I'll have to check my stats. I don't think the challenge affected them, except for the fact that there were more comments, but that's the nature of the beast. At the beginning of the challenge, I would pick five random blogs from the master list and check them out, which was fun to see such a diversity of blogs and blogging style. But, then I kind of got lazy and just kept going back to the usual suspects and/or those who commented on our blog.

    Strangely, I didn't find the challenge to be challenging, but that's probably because I wrote everything (except Z) in advance.

    1. It'd be really fun to meet you guys one day . . . I think you'd especially enjoy our regular afternoon ritual of coffee and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies!

      Next year, I'm definitely writing more posts in advance (all of them if possible). I spent way too much time during the day writing, reading other blogs and commenting. I'm sure David was ready to toss me overboard because I really slacked off on my other jobs around here!

  3. Thanks much for the Shout-out, but even more for your great writing and insights throughout. The challenge was - well - challenging! But fun and a great learning experience.
    Now to get Sionna in tube water again!

    1. Thanks, Keith! I really enjoyed reading your blog and am looking forward to the butter melting come the fall!

    2. We have a launch date! June 3rd Sionna goes back in the water - newly painted dinghy and all!

    3. I wish blogger had a 'Like' button. That's great news!

  4. I felt similarly about the pros and cons. I, too, had taken a considerable break from blogging and came in running with this challenge! Wow. It was a lot of work, but it refreshed my love for blogging. Great post. Sounds like a fun life! I may have to stop by again and read more. I have you on my Bloglovin' list, so I'll be back.

  5. Thank you so much for the shout out! Your April sounds like it was about as crazy as mine was. The key is definitely having the posts pre-written so you'll have more time to not only explore, but time to mentally recoup and energize for the rest of the year.

    Congratulations on completing the challenge. I do hope your new visitors continue to visit you throughout the year.

    #AtoZChallenge Reflections and #IWSG

    1. Thanks, Mary. I'm so glad I found your blog (not an easy thing to do when there are so many of them).

  6. Thanks for the shout-out, Stephanie. Once again, I agree with most of what you wrote. I, however, did not write any of the posts ahead of time and suffered a bit from that, since the A-Z blogging had priority over anything else. After two weeks, I got ahead with one blog and kept that up. It relieved the pressure a bit. I spent 4-5 hours a day on this challenge in April!

    My stats have remained pretty much the same, except for the comments. I did those the same way you did, as I did reading other blogs. I wish I had more time to explore other blogs than just stick with my favorites, like all the sailing blogs you mention. Funny how we all came full circle with each other!

    I hope you have a wonderful time cruising in the PNW!!! Have fun!!!

    1. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of following along with the sailing blogs -- not only could we relate to the difficulty of the challenge but the topic as well. Like I said, I wrote 15 of the post beforehand but most of them were clumped around the beginning of the month which made things a little hectic towards the end. Like you though, I found getting ahead of the game by one day helped a lot.


  7. Great reflections post, I found you via the A to Z Challenge and was hooked! I didn't comment every day (my lack of prep as I was writing on the fly for a lot of the challenge) but I certainly read every day!

    I agree with a lot of what you've found, I didn't get time to do it but last year I did a lot of random blog hopping from the list as well as working my way down from my entry and the random ones were fun. That was my one regret this year, the number of blogs I visited were far less than previous years.

    What kept bringing me back to you, aside from an interesting topic, was the quality of your writing and the ability to tell the story in an honest and engaging way. I haven't done a list of blogs of my everyday reading during the challenge but yours was defintely one of them!

    Thank you for the shout and I'll see you during the year.

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. Thanks, Mars. That's really nice of you. Like I said, I enjoyed your theme for the challenge and found myself hooked as well. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about working with glass that I find poetic.

  8. It really does help to have post pre-written which gives more time for the visiting. I agree shorter posts work better on the challenge because there are so many blogs to visit, people like to zip in and out