One afternoon in March 2019, I came across an interesting term in a blogging Whatsapp group. A few bloggers were bowing out of participating in a promising blog train as they were going to be busy with the “AtoZ”. This expression intrigued me no end, and I immediately began investigating its meaning. It was a month-long international blogging challenge, where participants had to post a blog corresponding to a letter of the alphabet, every day in the month of April, barring Sundays. I was amazed to learn that the challenge was now in its 10th year, and a very popular activity in the blogverse.
Foolishly confident, I signed up with both the international team as well as the Indian Blogchatter team that conducted the challenge. I don’t use the word foolish lightly here, I really had no idea what this challenge would entail.
The first task was to find a theme, so that readers would know what to expect from me. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you would know that my writing has never been restricted to any particular genre. I use the term ‘Lifestyle’ to describe my niche, because I enjoy writing about many different topics. This unfortunately resulted in a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation. I found it incredibly difficult to pick a theme.
I decided to narrow down the choices to my favourite topics- movies, books and travel. Of the three, travel seemed the most popular choice from a reader’s perspective. However, this put me in a real dilemma because my usual travel posts required intensive and in-depth research, supplemented by fresh memories and pictures of having visited the place in question, quite recently.
I was aware that a challenge of this scale is best approached when you’re an expert in any field. Your extensive knowledge can be exploited to ensure that you stand apart from others who write on similar themes. Knowing I couldn’t do justice to my posts as a travel expert, in the meagre two weeks I had before the challenge began, I delved deeper to identify an area that I felt an expert in. The answer was staring me in the face- I could recount memories from my own life. I decided to pen stories from my travels since childhood, as those were uniquely my own.
Identifying experiences that were funny, sad, scary, and interesting from my travel treasury, was my next task. To challenge my creative juices further, I took the “AtoZ” moniker very seriously. Every place I wrote about had to begin with a letter of the alphabet, had to be a place I had visited, and had to have an interesting story attached to it. To make matters even tougher, I decided to use alliterative titles for each story using the alphabets in question. This proved quite difficult, and I spent hours scouring the thesaurus for synonyms, the dictionary for words beginning with a particular letter, and repeatedly asking my family members for suggestions. Some letters required extra creativity and I resorted to using Urdu for the letters Q and Z; and though I had a place with the letter X, the title was slightly modified!
Another mammoth task that I hadn’t anticipated beforehand was collecting photographs. Travel memories are enhanced with pictorial representations, at least when reading online. I undertook a massive search operation in my parent’s home, going through tons of old albums, figuring out methods of rescuing pictures that age had destroyed, and also requesting family and friends to pass along some that I simply couldn’t find.
When April 1 finally arrived, I had pre-written 14 posts, and collected most of my photographs for all 26. I was better prepared than some participants in that regard, but I still hadn’t anticipated how difficult and time-consuming this month-long task would prove to be.
Apart from writing the remaining posts, a large chunk of my time was dedicated to reading other blogs. This was not a necessary requirement but I was thoroughly enjoying the variety of posts I discovered, and happy to come across many talented writers through this platform. On the personal front as well, I had a lot going on. My son was having trouble adjusting to his new class and new teacher; half-way through the month, the domestic staff went on leave; my fitness regime went for a toss resulting in weight gain; and I had to make time for living my regular life too!
But I survived, and I’m so happy that I did. There are a lot of tangible results for me to be thankful for, such as the surge in traffic to my blog, rise in website rankings, as well as an increase in subscription count. However, the intangible results are far more important. Through the challenge, I’ve gained new readers who genuinely enjoyed my content, spurring me on to publish an e-book. I’ve also gained new friends in the blogging community that I am very thankful for. Learning about new concepts of blogging and technical aspects of running a website, were an added bonus. All these will hopefully help to take my blog, as well as my writing, to the next level.
The #AtoZChallenge of 2019 was the first I’ve participated in, and it was a defining period for my blogging career. I can proudly say I’m a survivor, and I will certainly be back next year!