Monday, September 19, 2016

6 Ways to Find Inspiration

     Some days (today, in fact) I need inspiration. Write 31 Days is coming soon; it's an October writing challenge requiring a significant amount of content. And I currently have no topic.

     I have scattered ideas, but I need true inspiration. Inspiration can happen accidentally, but it rarely does. It needs some direction: you have to seek it out.

     In my case...

     I know what my goal is: to find a strong, working W31D topic, one that is specific but just broad enough to write about non-stop for 31 days. (*cue panic attack*)

     I know what my general topic will be: [spoilers removed].

     And I know how I'm going to get my inspiration: see the six ways below. :)

1. Brainstorm on paper--mind maps, flashcards, sticky notes, and my personal favorite: college-ruled notebook paper. Something about paper orients the brain in realistic ideas.

2. Go outside. My current morning ritual is watching the sunrise by a pond. Nothing stimulates the brain like fresh air and a view to oneself.

3. Rest. Just sitting without doing anything gives the mind space to breathe. But don't just let your mind wander. Think about your topic you're seeking inspiration for.

4. See what you've already done. For me, this means combing my topic's Pinterest board, looking for quotes and pictures that will set me up for an amazing October. It means reading my old blog posts on the topic and reflecting on what readers have enjoyed in the past.

5. See what others are doing. You're not the only one in your field--academic, occupational, or otherwise. Read others' works. Watch their videos. See what they have done. Do they have an idea that you can make better? Can you expand on one tiny thing they said? Just remember to never outright steal ideas and give credit where it is due. :)

6. Have fun! Let your mind wander. Explore new ideas and angles. Remember that the goal is simply more ideas, and each one matters, even and especially the crazy ones. (Don't forget to write them down, so you don't forget them!)

     If all else fails, then you can always write a blog post on inspiration!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

For My Bro ~ On Your Birthday

My dearest Patrick,

     It's about time I wrote this post. You're the one person I can never stop talking about--the coolest little bro ever.

     And today you turn 15! It feels like you've already been here for awhile. You're so mature for your age; you've stopped the annoying teasing and kept the sweet teasing. Or maybe it's that you're taller than me, but then again, you've been taller for a while.

     You're the person I got to go to the Amazon with. You're the person I do school with every day. You're the one who brings me laughter. You dance in the kitchen, sing my favorite obscure musical songs, and always want to hang out with me. You keep me on my toes, always exploring new tv shows and fandoms. And your fashion advice is on point lately!

     You use your artistic talents on paper and on stage. One day you'll use them on screen. The most beautiful art you make is in the way you love the people around you. You're always looking out for your friends' best interests. And you hug Mom, Dad, and me like you never want to let us go.

     I will continue to love you fiercely, spend every moment I can with you, and defend you with every ounce of passion I have.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
Ephesians 6:10

     Happy birthday, Patrick!

~Madeline, Your Adoring Big Sister <3 p="">

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Monday, September 5, 2016

What Playing Foosball Taught Me About Life | Tips for Your Freshman Year

     As my newsletter subscribers learned on September 1st, I am now the small group leader for freshman and sophomore girls at my church's youth group.

     It's been throwing me back to my freshman year a whole lot. I am trying not to relive my glory days in front of them (so they can live their own freshman years), so I will do so here instead.

     I brought my freshman and sophomore girls Goldfish last Wednesday night. My freshman year, we were so hungry that my small group leader bought us Goldfish so we would stop raiding the Children's Ministry's snacks. I loved that leader! Who doesn't like someone who gives them food?!?!

     Another thing I remember about freshman year is the insane amount of foosball we played. I became a professional level foosball player (if that's even possible!). Every spare second before or after youth group, my friends and I would take the table (usually playing doubles) and obsess with hitting that ball into the opponent's goal.

     A lot happened around that foosball table my freshman year, and these are the things that I learned from the hours we played.

1. Hold your tongue. Sure, by the end of the year I was good. But never boast before you have something to boast about unless you want to be humiliated. (See also: Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way So You Don't Have To...oh wait, I haven't written that one yet.)

2. One friend is more valuable than a hundred enemies. So make friends, not enemies. When playing doubles, you partner is invaluable! You can almost never win alone against two people. Often life comes against you with a force double what you can handle, and you'll need a buddy by your side. It sounds so obvious, but it's not easy: Make friends--not enemies--your freshman year. You'll thank me later.

3. Take action. Sometimes all it takes to win a game is to make a move. Get in there and take your best shot. It might be an epic fail, but it might also be an epic win! My latest definition of confidence is "the knowledge that I will be ok even if this goes terribly wrong."

4. Include others. Freshman year, it is so easy to just look out for yourself. All we're thinking is "Who am I going to hang out with? Who am I going to talk to?" Change your perspective and ask, "Who is she going to hang out with? How can I include her?"

5. Pay attention to the game. You'll be absorbing a lot of information your freshman year, and I'm not talking about school work, though that will be heavy too. I mean that you will begin picking up on social cues and people patterns that you were oblivious to in middle school. It might be hard to know who to trust or how to act. So pay attention to the patterns and data that you get. Learn how this whole high school thing works. And trust God more than anyone else. You may be surprised at what you find when you pay attention and learn from others' actions.

6. Stay focused on the goal. Just as one distraction keeps you from playing your best game, it's easy to lose focus on the things and people that matter. Make a list of your priorities, and stick to your goals. Don't let side things consume you.

7. Lastly, be kind. There is literally no reason that we should be unkind to others, especially when we're just starting out as small fish in a big pond. There are many people I wish I had been kinder to my freshman year. Never make jokes at others' expense, and be careful with competitive smack talk.

     I didn't start this post expecting to have so much advice for you freshmen, but it turns out my heart is simply bursting with love for you. You have so much you're going to learn, and sometimes you'll have to learn the hard way. But those are the lessons you can pass onto others.

     Hang in there!


Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to Find the Perfect Name for Your Blog

     So you want to start a blog. It won't be easy. However, if you've set your mind to it, I believe you can do it. One of your first steps is finding a name (so you can secure a domain or Blogspot URL.)

     And this isn't the easiest thing in the world. There are over 152 million blogs in existence (!!!), so you have a huge task to make yours stand out. As long as you go into it for the fun of it rather than to get popular, you can succeed. :)

     Here are the steps to finding the perfect name for your blog:

1. Brainstorm. First, you have to just throw all your ideas onto the page. (Yes, use paper for this step!) Write everything you like and everything to do with your topic. Write clever puns and silly twists on your name. Write basic words and super flowery words. Write everything you think of, even if you know you'll cross it out later.

2. Look at others' blog titles. After brainstorming, do a little research. Find blog titles you like and think about how some of your ideas might be similar. If you like the sound of Read. Write. Coffee. maybe you can do something with a similar rhythm like Joy. Grace. Kingdom. Or maybe you like the themes of others' titles rather than the rhythm. Then, try something like Reading the Written Coffee. I don't know. Get creative. Find something that sounds right.

3. Keep it specific, but not too specific. The best example I can give of this is when I wanted to have a lemonade birthday party. My mom wisely suggested I expand it a little to a lemon theme. And sure enough, I had a lemon-themed party complete with gallons of lemonade and jars of lemon candies. You get where I'm going with this. Keep your title just broad enough that you can do a lot with it.

4. Consider your own name. The best thing you can do (especially if you want to publish a book one day) is to buy your own name as your domain. (If you don't want to spend money on it, try through Blogger.) The great thing about this blog title is that no matter how your interests change, you will still have an appropriate title because it's your blog and things you like. The risk in this is that you come across as a little self-centered.

5. It can't already be taken. As much as you want to name your blog Read. Write. Coffee., you cannot have it if it's already taken. Once you nail down three or four ideas you like, check them against what is already out there. A simple Google search should do it. Also, avoid the names of movies and books, as those will always be more popular than your blog. (And we don't want search engines to put your blog as the fourth or fifth most important.)

6. Lastly, make sure it reflects you and is something that makes you smile. This one is important. Find the name that makes you smile every time you hear it. The one that makes you think, "Aw, this is my baby, my pet project, my joy." It's ok to have something fun as your blog title!

     All this leads me to the story of why I titled this site The Little Decorator. Four years ago, I brainstormed words like "yellow, joy, sunshine" but found that most variations of those words were taken. I was very into decorating as a 13-year-old and had even started reading books about it. Hence decorator. I knew I was one of the youngest in my field, and I was ok with being the child prodigy. So little it was!

     Even now that I am not always in decorator mode or writing about decorating as much, "beautiful things" are still a theme in my life and throughout my blog. So I don't think The Little Decorator was too specific. It was (and is) cute, fun, and enjoyable. It encompasses all my passions of making things more beautiful (because if that's not the definition of decorator, I don't know what is!)

     You may never have noticed, but I avoid calling myself The Little Decorator. I want to keep it the name of my blog rather than my identity. I always sign my posts ~Madeline in varying colors, and I give myself the freedom to write about whatever comes to mind. After four years, that covers a lot of subjects, so I would put myself in the "lifestyle blog" category rather than the "decorating blog" category. (So maybe the title is a bit misleading...)

     That, my dear friends, is why I called this wonderful place The Little Decorator. (Thank goodness that one wasn't already taken!)


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Celebrating 50 Subscribers!

     What?!?! You guys are the best! 50 people read my emails in their inbox and get my not-published-online newsletter (which is headed your way tomorrow, subs!)

     This is a particularly important milestone because many months ago my brother said he would subscribe to my blog when I had 50 subscribers. Well, look at me now, bro!

     Today, he became the 51st subscriber!

     So, I just wrote this post as the icing on the cake (or the confetti in your hair--however you like to celebrate).

     Obviously, it's not about subscribers. It's about me honing the craft of writing. It's about me having a little fun with a project. It's about learning, and it's about passing on tidbits to the next generation.

     But subscribers sure make it a whole lot more fun! Y'all are my people, and I couldn't love you more!


(If you aren't subscribed, join the fun here! We'd love to have you!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Three Favorite Books Revealed

     The most common question a bookworm is asked is "What is your favorite book?" It's also the most dreaded question.

     How can a bookworm pick a single all-time favorite when they've devoured hundreds of books on all kind of subjects?

     It's difficult, but I have chosen. And the video has spoken. That's right. You can find the answer to today's question right here. Let me know what you think, and obviously I would love it if you subscribed to my channel and liked the two videos on books.

     So this is what it looks like when I dive into "BookTube," a group of YouTubers who could talk about books all day long. I thought you blog readers, my peeps, would enjoy seeing me go crazy over my books.