I’ve climbed to the top of my A to Z challenge, a small rocky outcrop at the edges of the vast mountain ranges in Webland. The digital sun shines down on my back. I feel the sweat drip from my brow as I reach a hand up to the flat top and pull myself over with one final grunt.
I roll over and lay for a moment unmoving. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the aches from the climb and feel entirely spent.
I hear then what sounds like a slow drip of water and notice the dryness in my throat. I come to my feet and walk towards the dripping sounds to a circle of stones. I look down and see it surrounds a deep empty well and on the rim of stones rests a large jug thrown on its side with the last dregs of water drippng slowly back into the well. I hurry towards the jug, but as I raise it with both hands to my lips, I see the note tied to its handle.
My mouth seems to dry further even at the suggestion, but I force myself to turn the note over and back again. Just those two finely printed words.
I lift the end of the jug to pour the last few mouthfuls into the well and a torrent of water appears. It rushes down into the well and I have to stagger back, re-grasping at the handles as the jug turns heavier still. I lay it down again by the stones, the lip resting on the edge of the well and the water flows freely.
This bountiful well sits at the top of the A to Z mountain and as I gulp down mouthfuls of its cool water this is what I learn:
1. Serendipity is only a blog hop away.
Along my internet adventure, I went in search of serendipity, but I forgot to examine blog hopping as one way of bringing an amazing sprinkle of randomness to any internet journey. Something like the A to Z, with its list of anything goes, meant every hop can be a chance to be surprised by something different or given a spark that leads on to other things.
There is something uniquely satisfying about discovering blogs this way. It takes you out of your comfort zone, but by also setting some arbitrary boundaries around all the possible blogs you could explore on the web, it frees you to consider each of these more closely.
2. Blogging is a zero sum game.
Words you could write = Time you have
Time you have = Words you should write
There were so many evenings where I thought I was too tired to write a post, so many days when work had been too busy or birthdays, dinners or friend commitments could not be moved, which meant honestly, really, I just couldn’t write a post in the spare hour or two or three. And yet, I did.
There were also long days, where I’d promise to get ahead. Write those next three posts, but the words would just keep coming and that first post or that last one would always need another word tweak or edit. There would always be a detail where something could be better, until I’d glance at the clock and the A to Z daily deadline would be looming again.
If you give yourself an hour, you’ll take an hour. If you give yourself a day, you’ll take a whole day.
The words you want to write will always be equal to the time you have available because in the blogging game, like any expression of creativity, you’re never really done. Hitting publish on a post doesn’t mean you’ve reached some special moment of perfection, it never will, you just have to do it anyway.
3. Finding a flow, but staying the course
When I first started the A to Z challenge, I had some vague musings that it should be both a blog of fantasy and fact. The first because I enjoy writing creatively, the second because I still wanted it to illustrate the fascinating stories and research about the internet, relevant today. I wanted each post to be informative and imaginative.
Sometimes though I would arrive at each topic from a different direction than I expected. I would sometimes do stacks of research, but then end up putting it aside to let my imagination run wild. Other times, I’d start with a single strong image, but then have to cut it down in order to bring out the key content I was trying to point to.
In each of these cases, the A to Z letter acted as an anchor point. It stopped me from writing myself into corners and circles, or at least pushed me daily to get myself out of them.
* * *
The last of the water from the jug slows once more to a single drip. Having drunk my fill, I sit with my feet dangling into the well and the cool water over my legs lies perfectly still.
In its reflection, I see the rays of the sun cast strange shadows across my face. I look up just in time to see it set behind the distant mountains and the night lights up with a million multicoloured stars of the web.