Today’s guest post comes from Nancy, who blogs as dogear6 at Living The Seasons. Nancy also has another blog at A Daily Life, that serves as a resource for writers, diarists, and bloggers.
Some Notes From Nancy:
I'm looking forward to trying this year's A to Z Challenge and I'd like to share with everyone why this excites me
Because I can do it.
That's right, because I can do it. And so can you.
Last year, I coordinated and participated in a daily random word challenge. Each day, myself and other participants wrote a post, using a word that had been randomly selected by the computer.
My first posts were mostly a definition of the word and a picture, with maybe a paragraph as to why I picked that picture. Slowly I began writing better content to where the posts meant something to me and were something I wanted to share to encourage others, amuse them, or point out beauty.
I got really discouraged in early July because I had so much I wanted to share but the random words restricted my choices so badly. I realized that I had to be more creative in using the words while posting the topics I wanted.
By the end of 2011, my posts had quality and quantity. There were very few topics left in my journal jar as I'd managed in someway to get them all out.
Having finished (survived) a daily challenge, I highly recommend it. It's a great way to get consistency, get into the habit of writing, and train the muse to show up when needed. At the end of it, you have a body of work.
Here were some of my tricks when I got stuck:
· Look up the meaning of the word in Wiktionary.
· Use Wikipedia to get some background information.
· Look up quotes that use the word. I might use the quote in my story, sometimes it was just a tool to get my ideas flowing. My favorite quote place is Brainy Quote, but you can find all kinds of quotes by using Google.
· Look up the word with Google and just see what happens.
· Look through my journals for something I may have written with a theme similar to the word (i.e., in my backspace posting, I looked for things I’d expressed regrets about).
· Brainstorm with my husband. He has a good sense of humor and is usually up to making suggestions. I may not like his ideas, but he’s a good resource to get my brain unstuck.
· And sometimes I just sat at the table and looked out the window to see if the backyard had answers for me :)
Once I got my ideas flowing, I developed them into a story with a beginning and end, as well as an explanation of why it was important to me and what I’d like for my family and friends to remember. I used the writer’s favorite five W’s – who, what, when, where, and why. They’re a reliable tool and give good structure to any story.
I hung in there every day, even when I didn’t feel like doing the word of the day, even when I didn’t know HOW I was going to use the word of the day, even when I didn’t want to spend more time at the computer after being at work all day. It was worth it to share my thoughts, get the feedback, hear from my friends (old and new), and bring joy to those around me.
Each time I thought of skipping a day, I’d think a) the other participants will be posting and I have to keep up; b) my Mom will miss it; c) my girlfriend’s daughter will be looking for more dog pictures; d) it greatly amuses everyone to see how I use today’s word and e) if I want to write, I need to write. And so I wrote.
It’s hard to pick several favorite posts from 2011. I did a lot of good work in the challenge. Several particularly noteworthy posts include Culture Norms Are A Pile of Moose Muffins (about my cousin who had Down’s syndrome), Phase of the Summer (about fleeting days), and Moo Cards Explain Me (who I am, using the word of the day “moo”).
So do the A to Z Challenge! Some days will be easy, others will not. You’ll have good posts and mediocre ones. That’s okay – the game is to show up each day and do it. With practice, you’ll get better and so will your creativity.
Please note that my materials are copyright by a Creative Commons Attribution license. For more information, visit or contact me at www.livingtheseasons.com.
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Good luck for this year's challenge.
That's actually a really cool idea, using a random word like that. May have to rely on that method myself. ;)
Excellent tips there.
I am running a photography blog, i hope you can all visit (and follow me) as I go ahead with this challenge
Randomness works...sometimes I flip through old photo albums or page through magazines, looking for pictures or phrases to inspire me. And just "showing up" each day is half of the battle!
Great ideas! I think the key to the challenge is to keep it simple.
These are some great pointers for the challenge and for posting in general!
Great ideas combined with much needed encouragement. Thanks!
Just signed up for my first A to Z this morning. Pretty excited about my theme.
Well we don't want to disappoint anyone because there were no dog pictures!
I'm gearing up to find something for the letter 'Q'. It's that elusive letter that always sits there stubbornly defying any idea I come up with. Curse you, Q! I think going for a random word on that day is the way forward.
Very interesting post. Some great advice too!
Wishing you all the best for this years challenge.
Nancy ~ so glad you shared this post with the challenge participants. I got a lot out of your advice that I will be applying to my posts this year. I have a theme, but it's wide open so random words will definitely work into it quite well. I also appreciate how open you were to share the struggles and such that you encountered. It's very encouraging for others to know that challenge participants don't have to have a ton of experience to participate, since seasoned bloggers also get stuck sometimes. One last thing; hubby's humor getting you unstuck. I have a tween and a teen. YellowBoy is 12, Jake (who wants his real name used) is almost 15. When I get stuck on what to post about, I ask them. I used to promise that whatever word they came up with, I would do, but they quickly realized the great power (but not quite the great responsibility) and would try mighty hard to stump me. Now when I ask, I say gimme three, and if I don't like any of them, I'm choosing my own. I think that for writers, the whole "write right now about this" exercise is a very valuable one. I think of it as writing push-ups. Sometimes not so fun, but exercises the muscle we really need to be in good shape. I wish you great times in this year's challenge, and I'll be stopping by soon to check out your place.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-Host of the April 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge
That's some great advice. Good Luck at this years challenge!
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