#AtoZ Challenge: Reflection on My April 2018 Participation

For 2018's Blogging from A to Z Challenge, my main goal was to complete 26 posts to help dog parents find time during the course of their day to train their pup in easy, but consistent bursts.

And I did it. I reached my goal!

My planning process

  • Once I narrowed down my theme in December 2017, I spent some time over my Winter Break brainstorming what words could correspond to each letter of the alphabet.
  • By January I finalized my list of 26 words for my theme "Practical Dog Training Tips for Busy People."
  • In January and February, I was adding ideas and examples to my rough draft in Evernote.
  • In March I switched gears to create templates for my graphics. I wanted to customize my 26 letters I use for each post, and I wanted to create a long Pinnable image template that would be easy to update for each day.
  • In March I also created the blog post template, which was easily duplicated 25 more times.

My creation struggles

  • By the end of March, none of my rough drafts were finalized pieces of writing. I spent a good chunk of my Spring Break, which was the first week of April, trying to crank out as many scheduled posts as I could.
  • Motivating me were several events in April, including the BlogPaws Conference where I would be out-of-town for five days.
  • While I had my 26 letters created and I was happy with my template for sharing individual posts on Pinterest, I had only created a few actual individual Pins. I needed to either identify photos already taken or photos I needed to shoot to finish creating the rest of the daily Pins.

Lessons learned and thoughts pondered...

  • I participated in this challenge last year with my book blog, so I knew the amount of work that would go into daily posting. While I started to plan much earlier, I did not create enough writing goals to keep me focused. If I decide to participate next year, I will need concrete due dates for finalizing rough drafts into polished posts.
  • I connected with another Doodle mom, whose blog I'm continuing to thoroughly enjoy. Our Prime Years celebrates retirement! Donna and her husband Stu also happen to be the proud parents of Cooper and Murphy, two gorgeous Goldendoodles who are both black. That's right, Goldendoodles can be black. For the challenge, Donna covered the A to Z of Goldendoodles. Since the challenge has ended, she's posted about updating her refrigerator and installing roller sun shades on their front porch. For both of these most recent posts, I found myself laughing out loud as I read because of connections I feel to her life beyond both of us being Doodle moms. Matthew and I moved late in 2017. We've decided to sell our condo, so we're renting this fabulous guest house in an older Tucson neighborhood. The real estate around here is pricey, so the owners of the property decked the guest house out with modern lights, appliances, and aesthetic touches. We love the mix of the old and new. One of our favorite upgrades in this home is the larger refrigerator, which allows us to easily store and see all of the food for us and our two Doods. And since the home receives some serious direct Tucson sun, the owners recently had their handyman over to install roller sun shades on a few of the windows. I love our sun shades as much as Donna loves her! Making this one connection to another dog mom through this challenge makes me smile.
  • Many of the participants in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge are authors, but reading their flash fiction, or story adventure, or daily writing prompt just doesn't do anything for me. This year, the organizers of the challenge created a Master List that people could sort in various ways, including category. A brilliant and inspired move!
  • I don't really understand this read-for-read, comment-for-comment sharing economy we've created on the Interwebs. To be clear, by "we" I mean blog-o-verse in general and not the Blogging from A to Z Challenge specifically. If I'm supposed to be finding my ideal avatar audience who will engage with content I create because they find it valuable, then I'm not really sure how having random people visiting my blog because they expect a comment back on theirs is useful.
  • When I sorted the Master List by category, there were only a few folks blogging about animals, but I did find other blogs that I enjoyed reading, including themes about Lego movie posters, documentaries, podcasts, and fitness. I commented on some, but not others. Sometimes I don't have much to say. Or I have a lot to say, but I'm going to choose to respect someone else's right to publish their opinion on their blog. If I don't agree, I can stop reading and move on. 
  • After this year's challenge, I could see how social sharing of various A to Z posts could be useful. For instance, Tui Snider, author and speaker, re-Tweeted my post on G is for Games. I'm not even on Twitter that consistently, but I thought I'd check out her blog. She wrote about the history and meaning behind various cemetery symbols. I can't even remember if I commented on her blog, but I certainly looked around and bookmarked her site. We've got some famous cemeteries in Arizona, so I'm keen to explore some of them with this new knowledge in hand.
  • I view this challenge as an intrinsic one. Can I complete the 26 posts? This year I added, can I further revise and edit the 26 posts in May to create an e-book as a new lead magnet for this site? Working on that goal now! I don't see this challenge as a huge networking opportunity because my niche falls outside of the larger pool of authors sharing their various works of fiction. If these authors happened to have dogs that they've been struggling to train, then sure, my theme might be useful to them. But from the memes I've seen, many authors have cats. And that's not a slam on authors or cats. I love both. 
  • Will I participate next year? Probably. I have several ideas already, including stealing Donna's concept and customizing it for Labradoodles instead of Goldendoodles. I have numerous photos of Bernie and Lizzie that I could feature while highlighting all that's amazing about being a Doodle mom. I've got other ideas too, but I'm waiting until later in the summer to start narrowing down my focus. 
Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Practical Dog Training Tips for Busy People Reflection Post