ZotA – Reflection on the AtoZ challenge


A-to-Z Reflection [2016]


So here we are at the end of my first AtoZ Challenge and many people’s seventh! This reflection post is, apparently, a time honoured tradition, a way of rounding up the month of April that has been a part of AtoZ since the first Challenge in 2010. Like Gaul, my reflection is divided into three parts:

Firstly, it’s been good to get back into writing the blog again, as well as tiring, frustrating and exhilarating. Having come up with a theme that I thought would be worthwhile, it has been fun to get my thoughts down on paper, so to speak, and even better to engage with a whole new audience. It’s been slightly disappointing not to have had more contact from people who are going to be writing a thesis in the near future – it would be interesting to know what they are worried about and whether this series of posts has helped, but I’m hoping that they will continue to have a life after this spring, so we’ll see what happens. On the other hand, it has been good to see that some of the things that I’ve been talking about have resonated with writers in other situations – not just those writing an (academic) thesis. It’s also worth having a think about some of the other goals that I set myself and how I got on with the process of writing. I had intended on getting about half of this series of posts written before April started, but in the end I didn’t manage this. I always had a few in hand, which was a relief on several occasions, but from a starting point of about 10 in hand, I wrote Z with three days to spare. I think one of the biggest problems with life in general is that there is always so much to do and there are always so many interesting things coming to light. It’s been good to commit to one thing for a while and to bring it to completion, but there are a number of other projects that have suffered or gone by the wayside completely. Oh well. Again, on a more positive note, it has been good to try out a few new skills, dust off some old ones and think about the craft of writing for a bit, not just the content. Good planning is key – now I just need to work out how to make good plans in the face of life!

One of the other things that I wanted to spend the month thinking about was what do I want this blog to be? I called it “A back of the envelope calculation” because I intended to spend some time exploring some interesting “big” issues and to try and put some numbers to these. Sometimes, it’s useful to have some kind of framework to help you think through difficult ideas, and I like using numbers. Big issues, take some thinking about though and finding the thinking time, let alone the writing time is tricky. So, my intention is to keep writing ‘envelopes’ at a rate of one a month. Writing for the challenge has been good and there are some other topics that I would like to explore. It seems a bit pointless to start a new blog just for those posts, so perhaps we can just agree that the title indicates a willingness to explore the world, but a lack of time to go into the level of supporting evidence that I would expect in my day job. And I definitely need to jazz the site up a bit, so we’ll add that to the list. And I’d quite like to look into this reblogging malarkay. This feels like blatant plagiarism, so needs some careful investigation.

Finally, I’d hoped to be able to engage with the AtoZ community to a greater extent than I was able to. I’ve read quite a few blogs, left some comments and liked some posts. I’ve followed a few bloggers both on wordpress and twitter and am looking forward to following up on some blogs throughout the year. Particular highlights have been @raesquiggles , JH Moncrieff, Tasha Duncan-Drake,  Ally Bean, and John Holton.  In the case of  the last, I particulalry enjoyed his series of portmanteux, but I am in awe of anyone who can have a plan for the month, but when it appears that there might be some confusion over his theme, instead of just explaining what the deal is, goes ahead with *both* themes, one of which has to be written on the fly.  I tip my hat, figuratively and literally to you, sir.   What has been fantastic is the level of support that the community shows – it doesn’t matter if this is your first or seventh challenge, the AtoZ participants are great at talking to each other and encouraging one another on through the month. Thanks to all who have taken the time to read my posts, especially those who liked and/or commented.  I don’t want to turn this into an Oscars acceptance speech, but I do have to make three special mentions: firstly Debs Carey has to take a great deal of the blame for getting me involved in all of this – I could have said ‘no’, but she was the one that mentioned it in the first place and enthused about it! Secondly, Dr Mark Whiting has been a constant source of encouragement, not least because I saw him nearly everyday of the month! His feedback was invaluable, and I can only apologise for passing on Debs’ enthusiasm for the challenge… although I don’t feel too bad: he enjoyed the challenge so much that he is having another run through the alphabet, albeit at a slightly gentler pace.  Finally, a big thank you to my Dad, who took the time to read the posted blogs as promptly as possible and point out the typos!

I can probably sum up all of this best by saying that I’m already making notes for next year…


9 thoughts on “ZotA – Reflection on the AtoZ challenge

  1. “…there are a number of other projects that have suffered or gone by the wayside completely.” Ditto.

    I read many of your posts even though I am not working on a thesis (and have no plans to do so) because good writing is good writing and reading about other writing projects helps me refine my own. So thanks.


    1. Hi Sandra, thanks for dropping by. I wonder if it would be possible to do an A to Z on different writing forms and capture the tweaks that you need to make to good writing practice for that form to be successful…? I will have a think. But not for next year! I enjoyed your posts on places you’ve lived and hope to find some time to go back and read some of the ones I missed.


  2. First: I love your title for this post. Clever.

    Second: Thanks for the mention. I enjoyed meeting you during this challenge.

    Third: The most common sentiment I’m reading in reflections posts is regret about not having the time to engage with other bloggers. My suggestion is that next year we each choose to begin with “A” or “B” then write on every other letter after that, thereby allowing us time to go comment on our non-writing days. Think of it, in two years we could each cover the whole alphabet AND meet new people. Just a thought… 😉


    1. Hi Ally, thanks for stopping by and for the positive comments. The title just popped into my head, but it seemed sooooo right. I thought your theme was clever and the fact that you managed to carry it through was brilliant. To build on your theme, perhaps the other thing that could be done on ‘off-days’ is to reblog the best one you visit that day. The only slight fly in the ointment is that some people would have to deal with X and Z, but they might be happy to trade for not having to do Q!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like your idea of reblogging. Hadn’t thought of the inherent unfairness in having X/Z, although Q/U are no walk in the park, no matter what your topic is. It’s alway something…


      2. You pay’s your money and you makes your choice, as the saying goes. Or perhaps, what you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.

        Perhaps the blogging on alternative days needs to be a tag-team effort, where you share blogging duties with someone? AtoZ lite might seem like a bit of a swizz to some people.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great reflections 🙂 I loved JH Moncrieff’s blog too! I don’t think I got chance to visit you through the challenge but your theme sounds really good for any students out there and I definitely think it’s a good ever green topic

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also give props to your clever title, as well as the reference to Gaul ‘tres partes est’, which has been buried in my subconscious since 9th grade Latin class. It inspired me to go back and catch up on some of your posts. Sorry I am just now getting here. Good luck with the revamped blog!


    1. Hi Lissa, Thanks for stopping by. Slow work, but it will get done – hopefully before the next AtoZ! My latin is limited to Henry Beard’s books – my knowledge of Gaul is mainly limited to Asterix…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s