Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reflections - 2013 A to Z Blog Challenge

It all started innocently enough.  A post to the Writers of Kern facebook page by our president, Dana Martin, said "Hi guys! Who has a blog?? I'm doing this challenge..."  And, genius that I am, said "Sure, I'll do it."

One month later and here I am, a Survivor of my first  A to Z Challenge.  I've written a blog post for every day of April, save Sundays, one for every letter of the alphabet.

Now, I've made no secret of my distaste for runners.  They're so fit, and always so high on endorphins, and you can actually make out their abs, and they don't eat Moon Pies and wash them down with Dr. Pepper, and they have those "26.2" stickers on their car and they run, of all things, and like to talk about it.  I really do hate them.  But I have to borrow from their world to describe what doing this Challenge was like for me.  (I think I ran some in eighth grade, so I'm not completely without firsthand knowledge here.)

Yes, this challenge was like a marathon.  At the beginning, you're borne along on excitement, then pleasure at doing what you love and doing it in an actual event.  After a few miles, it gets harder as the enormity of the task sets in.  Well into the race, there are hints of panic and a thought of bailing out, but some perverse pride keeps you going.  Farther in, it becomes a real slog, with actual pain, and all your strategies go out the window save to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  But as the possibility of actually finishing becomes better than an even bet, something curious happens, the "second wind."  As the finish line draws closer and the you realize that yes, you really are going to make it, the tension and fatigue in the muscles fade, the lactic acid and cramping is forgotten, and you find your form and hit your stride with a kick of newfound energy.  Finally, as you cross the line, the thought of never having competed seems ludicrous, the pain is forgotten, and only pride remains.

And I am proud.  I'm great at starting things, but not so great at finishing them.  Not too experienced with closing the deal.  Most of my projects lie unfinished.  If you're not like me, it's hard to explain how exhilarating finishing a month-long task can be. 

There have been costs.  I've stayed up too late, too many times, finishing posts.  It's made it hard to get to work on time and added to my fatigue at work.  Worse yet is that time spent writing was time not spent giving my attention to my family. 

But we made it through, and it's time to give the computer a bit of a rest.  I'm glad I did it. 
It's been great for my writing chops.  I'm pretty much an essayist, and my best-ever essays have been for this challenge.  And it's turned my blog from a neglected and somewhat embarrassing thing to something I'm proud of, an actual blog.  That gets updated regularly.  And people read.

I'd like to thank the 2013 A to Z team that made this Challenge such a polished, professional showcase.  They are The Madlab Post (Nicole Ayers), Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird), Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas), Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh), Life is Good (Tina Downey), Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons), Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins), The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence), The QQQE (Matthew MacNish), Leave it to Livia (Livia Peterson), No Thought 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow), Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp), Spunk on a Stick (L. Diane Wolfe), and thanks to their cohosts, teams, minions and helpers.

Thanks also to all my fellow Challenge participants who encouraged me just by sticking with it, and provided me with so much great reading.  Thanks especially to fellow Writers of Kern A to Z bloggers "Coach" Dana Martin and Dennis VanderWerff and newfound blogging friends like Kern Windwraith, Bethie, Susan Scott, Kathy Wiechman, Suzi the Literary Engineer, Sylvia Ney, Julie Kemp Pick and many others, and to Arlee Bird for sending A to Z love in my direction.  Thanks for everyone not mentioned by name here who took valuable time from their day to read and commnent on my posts (including the very same Mom and Dad who used to put my stuff on our Avocado Green refrigerator)After all, without you all, what's the point?

Finally, I'd like to thank all of my fellow Writers of Kern for support and encouragement, particularly my biggest cheerleaders, Joan Raymond, Dana Martin and Annis Cassells, whose comments I eagerly looked forward to every day.  I suppose I could have managed something without you, but it wouldn't have been nearly as good or as fun or as worth it.

Love you all,



  1. Jer, I love, love, love your comparison of this challenge to a marathon. Yes, at the end, it's been like one foot in front of the other with all strategies out the ever-lovin' window. I'm grateful for this challenge because it has been, finally, a beautiful museum for your masterpieces that, heretofore, have been under lock and key in that deep and utterly delightfully observational brain of yours. You ARE a writer, one of the truest sort, and I am blessed that you call ME "coach." Your writing has been a pure pleasure to read, and now that our daily writing responsibility is behind us, perhaps you will be able to toss out an occasional weekly blog from time to time to keep your number 1 fan satiated. :)

    Sooooo sad to see this challenge end (and yet not).

    Waiter, drink please!

  2. Dear Jerry, it's been such a pleasure to read your incredible, insightful posts. With clarity, conviction, and humor, you drew us in allowed us to be privy to your interests and your life for this past month. Loved your marathon:: A-Z Blog Challenge analogy. It let us get a real feel for what you went through. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts whenever you write them. I hope it's often. With love, Annis

  3. Glad you survived your first challenge! You really went the extra mile for the marathon!

    1. Thanks so much for including me Jer! I was so caught up in your marathon analogy that I missed it yesterday. After just knowing you for a short time, I can't imagine your wonderful blog ever being "neglected and somewhat embarrassing." Thanks again for thinking of me!


  4. Congratulations. I'm hoping I can make it through the current challenge. Even though I know it can be done, it is still pretty intimidating to do something like this (or that one).

  5. Jerry,
    I looked forward to reading your posts each day. Each one opened just a bit of your world of interests to us. Thank you for working so hard to finish the race. I remember that "N" day - "Nothing". Even when you were beginning to run out of steam, you showed us your creativity and will to succeed.
    I knew you could do it!
    You are a true champion.

  6. Jerry, Congrats and a great job. I can't imagine doing a daily blog and a job. I'm retired and did a daily blog for six months and had to cut it to three days because it wore me out. It's great to get to know you and your family. Your girls are quite special. Keep it going!

  7. Well done it is harder work than it looks and a lot did not get to the end. So I congratulate you on a job well done.

    Rob Z Tobor

  8. This was beautiful!
    I hate running, too lol
    I admire them, though...

    Congrats on finishing the challenge I mean marathon!

  9. Oh, I am certainly going to have to come back and read your posts. I saw this link on the reflections list. Sad I missed your daily posts, but look for more comments from me in the future!

  10. You rock, Ricky! Now, get some zzzzzzzzzz!

  11. Oh, I can so relate to several things in this post. Hating runners. Not finishing projects. Sometimes I worry that the latter is going to rub off on my children. I really need to change my ways.

    So, I don't really hate runners. I wish I could--run, not hate, but I was never meant to be an athlete. Runner or otherwise. Our local marathon is a few weeks away and my 8 year old really wants to run. He has obviously gotten his sports minded genes from my husband. The youth run is not good enough for my son though. He wanted to to do the 10K.

    Since the US never got into the metric thing (I could've sworn in my high school years they talked about adding metric numbers to traffic signage), I googled a metric to mile converter and promptly said no. 6 miles is too long.

    The 5K. That he can probably do. And of course he wanted me to 'run' it with him. Even after I explained he will get ahead of me because I can hardly jog for a mile and will then have to walk.

    Now, since I've never paid much attention to the marathon thing, I wasn't aware that there were fees. So technically my son is the only one signed up to run the 5K, for $20. I am saving myself $30 by following along on sidewalks. No, I won't get a fancy t-shirt or my name/number recorded with my finish time in some marathon book, but I really don't care.

    The race is at one of our local universities, and I'm thinking I'm gonna have to take some shortcuts, so my son will be shocked when he sees me at the finish line before him. That might be kind of fun. Now all I have to do is print out the race map and figure this out. Might be one project I will finish. :)

  12. I am in the midst of the WOK challenge and it has affected my production. On Wednesday and Saturday I am not satisfied until I actually put the blog online. In like manner, I was able to write the last missive for my critique group after reading a blog that said stop reading FB and write. Not just posting but I feel an obligation to bring my A game; everyone else is so good. Fun and a cool way to meet some others who share the passion for writing.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. TR

  13. Does running from the police count? I've enjoyed your posts--funny, personal, encouraging. Looking forward to reading more. Glad to find a new friend.

  14. Hi Jer, and so great to see your post up. The analogy to a marathon is apt indeed - exhausting. I wondered if I would finish it but it was so wonderful to receive encouragement from those who commented - you for one. This gave me the juice to go on ... and my first A-Z done and dusted! I too am not good at finishing what I started, but somehow this has given me the wherewithal to 'just do it'.
    Thank you for the mention Jer, I really appreciate this. Keep those gorgeous girls whistling using two fingers ...
    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff

  15. Great Post! You should be proud. Oh and I hate runners too.

  16. I'm still blogging, almost everyday; still visiting and using the linkys to hit everyone I can. Disappointing to see so many who've not posted since finishing the challenge. I'm keeping the momentum going.

  17. Congratulations on completing the A-Z Challenge! Just cruisin' by to say hello from the 2013 Post A-Z Road Trip.
    Thoughts Of Beauty In The Stillness Of Dawn...

  18. Hey, Jer. Been thinking about the A to Z Challenge these last few days and thought I'd better check and see what some of my favourite bloggers are up to. Apparently some are about as active in the blogosphere as I am! I do hope you plan to return to this blog at some point in the not too distant future.You had something special going on here, my friend, and I'd love to read more. Hope you and your family are well, and hope to see a post from you again soon.

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