Monday, May 3, 2010

A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

A little over a month back, I signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge. Today, I am the proud owner of this sparkling new badge-
To be honest, the only reason I signed up for the Challenge was because I find it incredibly hard to pass up any challenge. I did the NaBloWriMo in October 2009, and even though I swore I would not go anywhere near it, I attempted the NaNoWriMo in November 2009. The A to Z Challenge promised to be challenging, so how could I pass up the opportunity to be a part of it?

I have been blogging daily since July 2008 (except one day missed in November 2009), so committing 26 days in April was the easy part. The hard part was forcing myself to think by letter, and plan my blogging in advance. For a very brief period, I tried bringing some structure into my blog schedule, but soon abandoned it because on some topics, I had blogs scheduled weeks in advance, and on others, I ended up dashing off some incoherent nonsense minutes before midnight.

People who know me, know that I rarely quit. I am that crazy person who completes a marathon even though over 2/3rds of the participants dropped out due to the severe heat and humidity. If 26.2 miles didn't intimidate me, why would 26 letters? But some letters were harder than the others. Sometimes it was hard to come up with even one topic, and sometimes it was hard to choose the one topic to blog about.

I am not sure I contributed much to the Challenge apart from my daily posts. I wasn't like some others who left a comment every day, and I definitely didn't visit more than a couple of dozen blogs participating in the Challenge. But what I did try to do was to paint an authentic picture of India, so even if many of the people who visited my blog during the Challenge never do so again, they get a flavour of the country.

The Challenge got me thinking about my blog in a manner different from the way I used to. The first week, I knew what I was going to be blogging about days in advance. By Sunday, I had even written out most of the posts for the week, and had even scheduled them to appear on the right day. The second week was less systematic- I knew some of the letters in advance, but picked many of the words only the day before. All the posts that appeared during the week were scheduled to publish at the right time. In the third week, my schedule went haywire. All the posts were printed online and posted directly. That was also the week when I started thinking of topics only after starting to write the blog post! The last week was strange - I knew what I would be blogging about for V, W and X, but all three posts were written online. Y and Z were written on snatched Internet time. But the posts all got done, and in the ultimate analysis, that is all that matters.

I have been blogging daily from the time when I started the blog, and hope to continue doing so till such time as I cannot do it any longer. But this Challenge has got me thinking along different lines, which should reflect in a slightly greater maturity in my posts.

My biggest take-away from the Challenge has been not the number of Followers I have gathered (the number has gone up from about 25 to nearly 100), but the number of blogs that I have started following. Till about the first anniversary of my blog, I concentrated on blogging. It was only in July/ August last year, that I started following blogs, commenting on them, and making tentative friendships. Till I started this Challenge, there were a number of bloggers I followed, and a smaller number that followed me, but they were all bloggers who fell into a certain type. This Challenge introduced me to a whole new Universe of bloggers- people I would not have stumbled onto in the normal course of events, but who I enjoy interacting with.

And that has been my biggest takeaway from the Challenge. Thank you, Arlee. Thank you, everyone who made the past month so meaningful (I'm not listing anyone because I don't want to offend anyone by leaving them out, but they can't not know who they are). Thank you!
And have a Swinging time!


Anonymous said...

I'm in love with your kids... adorable and full of energy.

It's always great when you complete a challenge and realize that it has helped you expand your horizons in some small way.


I enjoyed reading your blogs very much, you have a different culture to me and it was good to learn about the different way people live their lives. It was a pleasure to read everyday and hope to continue log after this Challenge has ended.

Thank you
Take care.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. I enjoyed learning about you and your culture and will continue to stay in touch. :o)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Rayna. Your powderpuff is from the Fabaceae family and our pohutakawa is from the Myrtaceae family. They look very similar though. Very pretty :o)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

If you call your blog posts incoherant nonsense, then I can't wait to see what happens when you're not under any pressure! I love your blog. I love learning about India. A country that had fascinated me for years and would love to visit one day. You truly are an amazing new blogger friend and will definitely be staying in contact with you! Congrats on completing! xx

slommler said...

I am so enjoying visiting you in India! And I am glad you are stopping by and having coffee with me in New Mexico, USA! Congrats on your award! That is super!
Looking forward to more coffee and chatting!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You're right - it's the variety of people we found during this challenge that really made it all worthwhile. I will continue to tune in daily for your enlightening posts, Rayna!


Congratulations on winning the A-Z challenge. I had one follower that did the challenge. I think I would have gone for it myself had I known about it. You are a very open and "real" individual. I like that. Just happened by and thought I'd let you know I was here.

Talli Roland said...

Thanks so much for dropping by my blog and commenting so I could find you.

Congrats on finishing the challenge!

Mason Canyon said...

Through the challenge I did learn a lot about your country and enjoyed it very much. In addition, the variety of your post were interesting, entertaining and inspiring. As a reader of the challenge, I too found a lot of new and interesting blogs that I wouldn't have otherwise.

Thoughts in Progress

KarenG said...

I just read your comment on my post and yes, I did need to hear it and I greatly appreciated it! Plus it drove me here to your lovely blog which I am now following!

Christine Danek said...

You have a lovely blog. Your kids are adorable. Congrats on blooging from A to Z.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm glad you didn't quit because I enjoyed your letter posts.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Love the expression on your son's face on the swings!

Karen Walker said...

You are one of the bonuses I received from being a sideliner of the challenge. I love your posts and learning about you and your country.

Lisa said...

Your easy way with words is such a delight to read. Yours is truly one of my favorite blogs to read and I will continue to do so. :)

Jenny said...

Congratulations! I think that is quite an accomplishment.

Blogging becomes so much a part of a daily routine that it feels weird when you don't do it!

Thanks for stopping by my blog, too!

Beth said...

I didn't make it by here every day, Rayna, but when I did ... I always enjoyed your posts and the way they exposed me to a different life than my own. The post I most remember from you was Lost in London and how I sat here glued to my computer screen with baited breath even though you obviously survived to tell the story! I have enjoyed growing to know you, your precious children, and your country ... even this little bit!

Congratulations on finishing!

Raquel Byrnes said...

I agree that this challenge put me in touch with bloggers I would normally not have happened upon in my webcrawling. Great job finishing.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Cute photos! I can’t believe you have only missed posting a blog one day since 2008. That’s quite a record. I enjoy checking in here as often as I can – not only are your posts interesting, but I also learn from them.

Marjorie said...

I think so many people enjoy learning new things from you. I know I do. Our kids have grown so much since we first met and so has our friendship. This challenge was a ride I was happy to go with you on.

Tamika: said...

Congratulations Rayna! I need to rub shoulders with you and snag some of that drive. I feel like I'm running on fumes!

arlee bird said...

Rayna, your reflections are magnificent and provide a really good take on what the challenge was ultimately about. The way we were able to cross lines of culture, opinions, and interests in such a respectful and open manner gives me hope for a world where the news always feeds us with such negativism. My original sense that people are just people who want to learn about each other and enjoy company without the interference of governments and ideologies has been confirmed. Too bad the whole world can't just blog from A to Z and get along with each other.

Loved your posts. Your participation really helped make the Challenge a better experience and your comments were so encouraging. I'm impressed that you have been daily for nearly 2 years now-- that's an impressive feat. Congratulations on that alone! I'm glad you have found new blogs to follow and enjoy, and that new followers have found you. I feel like the Challenge accomplished something very positive.

Tossing It Out

GutsyWriter said...

I cannot imagine blogging daily as it takes me a while to put stuff together. Congratulations and that does say a lot about the person you are. Well done.

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

You are sooo talented and I can never thank you for sharing your beautiful culture with me. I have several friends that live in my town from India so I've always loved it. You are the cherry on top of my rich dessert. We'll be friends forever.

Shannon said...

So glad to have met you through this challenge, hope to get to know you more now that the challenge is over...congratulations on finishing it :) You little wee ones are adorable by the way!

Grammy said...

Dear Rayna, How grand it has been to read your posts, I enjoyed so much reading about India. I have never been there physically, but I feel I have been there mentally and in spirit. You describe daily life so well! Thank you for giving me a look into your life, and know that I will be visiting you as often as I can. I am trying to follow a lot of blogs, and as you know, there are just so many hours in a day. I read thoroughly when i read, so it does take time to read carefully. congratulations on sticking with it and finishing. You did so very well!
Best regards to you, my friend. Oh, yes, your boys are adorable!
Bye for now,

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Fiona - thanks, and yes, completing the challenge was great fun.

@ Yvonne - It was great meeting you through this challenge. And though I may not always leave a comment, you can be sure I will keep reading your wonderful poems.

@ Niki - likewise. I loved meeting you, and learning about your country. Waiting to hear more of your writings

@ Jessica - it was wonderful meeting you, and you can bet I am going to keep popping over to your fascinating blog.

@ SueAnn - and I really look forward to seeing more of your artwork take shape

@ Alex - yes, the fun was in the variety. In the way we picked the same V word and did such diferent things with it.

@ INSIDE THE SHRINK - thanks for visiting. Will visit back when I have a little bit of breathing time :-(

@ Talli - you are one of the bloggers who's name has often been cropping up all over. Was great to finally meet you.

@ Mason - thank you. And you can be sure I will keep blogging about my country. There are already quite a few posts that I could not write, which I am dying to write.

@ KarenG - thank you. I meant every word I said!

@ Christine - thank you.

@ Clarissa - have you known me to quit? Coffee lovers never do, do they?

@ Debra - it is priceless, isn't it? I was lucky I happened to have my camera around when he first learnt to make it go so high

@ Karen - thank you. It means a lot, especially since it comes from you.

@ Lisa - thank you. And I look forward to reading yours too.

@ Jenny - blogging is like a dirty habit you can't quite quit, nor particularly want to!!!

@ Beth - thank you. And it is lovely that you remember a post from so long back even now.

@ Raquel - and to you too. It is quite an accomplishment, isn't it?

@ Jane - when I think back about how worked up I used to get when I almost couldn't get my post up, I wonder if I shouldn't have taken it easier!!! And, thanks

@ Marjorie - and the nicest thing for me was seeing the writer in you finally start to asset herself.

@ Tamika - you will soon be riding on a different set of fumes!

@ Lee - You are quite the magician for pulling this off. I quite agree - if we just listen to others, instead of shutting them out or disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, how much better the world would be. I am so glad I did this challenge, even though I knew I shouldn't be!

@ Sonia - I started blogging, because I found I had forgotten how to put thoughts on paper. Now, it has just become a habit. And well done for you son!!

@ Debra - you are most welcome, and it is wonderful making new friends.

@ Shannon - congratulations on seeing it through despite all the problems you had. And thanks.

@ Ruby - quite. And isn't it better to read a few posts and give it your all, than to just comment all over the place? Look forward to continue being in touch.


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