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…