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I decided that adventure was the best way to learn…
Lloyd Alexander

In the spirit of adventure, I begin this blog post with butterflies in my stomach and a firm sense of determination to succeed. I recently volunteered to completely redesign and develop my organization’s website, a feat I have yet to accomplish in any kind of amateur experiment and one which I hope to accomplish in just the next six months. Not only will this be my first ever website of any significant size, but it will reflect my own drive, creativity, and perfectionist nature.

By allowing myself virtually no margin for error, I’ve ensured two things: 1) I will do my absolute best on this project, beginning to end, and 2) I will not be pleased with the outcome at launch.

There are good things and bad about both of those things, especially since this is my first project of this volume and depth. (And, while I may not be 100% pleased with the outcome of the site at its launch, because websites are live and can be edited, I will have the opportunity to improve upon it after its unveiling.) However, it is a grand adventure and I look forward to both the extreme highs and the inevitable pitfalls of such a project. It is my understanding that most people, when first learning how to design and develop websites, start off with one piece of the process, master it, then add another piece and repeat until they have fully mastered how to organize, develop, design, code, and launch a website gradually.

Due to the financial restrictions of working in a non-profit and my desire to learn the entire process, I volunteered to take on the complete redesign, beginning to end, as a solo endeavor. It both scares me and excites me.  It is the best of experiments and the most humbling of challenges. I look forward to sharing my experiences, both the frustrating and uplifting, on this blog and welcome any advice or encouragement from its readers.

And so, I look forward to this and embrace the challenges before me. For, as Ovid once wrote, “The bold adventurer succeeds the best.”

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As an artist and creative person, I usually have a well of ideas I draw from when I need inspiration, but there are some times when either the ideas don’t fit the medium or the purpose of the project I’m working on, or perhaps my well has run completely dry. When I need to replenish the supply, there are some things I usually do. My personal toolbox, though, is not infinitely deep and full, so I thought I would ask some other creative types where they draw inspiration from to see if I might find some new sources. Here’s what was shared with me (please feel free to add your own in the comments, as well):

christopherscot Christopher Scott: Lately I’ve been drawing a lot of my inspiration from the past, graphic design throughout history, and my childhood, specifically.
jcrossland Jonathan Crossland: I find inspiration in past events, emotions that perhaps occurred years before, but apply as a “feeling” to a new situation.
pixiequeen10thk Kirsty Selway: I get a lot of inspiration from other people’s work. Sometime’s just 1 texture will suffice.

Here are some sources I often draw on when I’m in need of inspiration:

  • tarot cards
  • architecture
  • artwork (both classic and modern)
  • naturally occurring themes or shapes or color combinations
  • fairy tales, myths, or legends
  • literature or historical events
  • a sense of whimsy

So, tell me, when you seem to have scraped the bottom of the barrel, where do you go for new inspiration? How do you come up with new ideas? What recharges and refreshes you?

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Two very intelligent, very inspirational blonde women you should definitely be following on Twitter:

  • Lisa Hoffmann (@lisahoffmann): is also known as New Media Lisa. Her blog frolics through the land of new media, including posts such as The Best Blog I’ve Never Read, which asks readers to recommend ‘undiscovered’ bloggers who contribute great content to the greater community; Twitter Is The Chuck Norris Of Ice Breakers, which starts a conversation about networking and making new ‘real life’ friends through Twitter; and Finding Inspiration on Twitter when in need of a mood-booster. This smart blonde keeps the good content coming on her blog and on Twitter alike. If you are in need of a mood-booster yourself, just take a look at Lisa’s picture on her Twitter page – that smile is completely infectious in the best way. Oh, and did I mention her plan for World Domination with Pamela Martin (see last week’s #followfriday recommendations)… all while shopping for shoes…  Now, that’s a smart blonde! 😉
  • Pam Stennett (@mistycliff): Pamela Stennett is one of my oldest and best friends, but that’s not why I’m recommending you follow her. This chick is all about conquering the world in small, but extremely important ways every single day. She’s a physical trainer, new mom (to Kai – just over a year old), entrepreneur, pitt bull rescuer, avid reader, and natural birth advocate. She’s been a vegan for going on ten years now and managed to keep her diet set even while pregnant (!!!), all the while staying in perfect shape and helping support her family with her husband and two dogs. She now has a very successful fledgling blog called I Write In Books, where she chronicles her many reading adventures, including literature, philosophy, and a feature called Kai’s Corner, where she reviews children’s books. If you’re an avid reader or are interested in natural birthing, she’s a must-follow. Plus, she’s one heck of a smart blonde!

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Sometimes I forget that the best thing a creative person can do is shut out everything else and just take a time out. We all need time to unplug, unwind, and unthink.

I recently wrote about what I would do if I could create my own schedule and how I’d like to find a way to stay on a permanent vacation. In addition to the benefits of spending time away from electronic distractions, staying away from others’ opinions in general can be extremely beneficial when trying to create something new. In the days of hyper-connectivity, it’s hard not to be influenced by other media, including television, radio, internet, phone calls, and even face-to-face conversations.

While I respect and value the opinions of my family, friends, and colleagues, I have come to the conclusion that I need to set aside time for myself away from the phone, the internet, and people if even for a few hours a week. So, I’m going to schedule SaraKate Blackouts – blocks of time when I can just lay outside on a blanket and appreciate the shade a tree offers in DC humidity, do some painting, write in my journal (yes, I actually have a real paper journal … not that I use it enough!), go on a long walk without purpose or destination, make a decadent homecooked meal, well… you get the idea. Basically anything but errands, work, or connecting with other people. I plan to schedule this in a few hours at a time, starting with this Thursday evening. I’m not sure it will be the same time every week or even if the duration will stay the same, but I’ve got to start somewhere and what better time to start than now?

That being said, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes on meditation and reflection:

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

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Some hefty #followfriday recommendations from the forefront of social media at BlogPotomac:

  • Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra): Amber is one of the most passionate people around. Her blog is thought-provoking, timely, and relevant. If you’re interested in branding, you should read her blog (AltitudeBranding). If you want to learn from her in many ways, follow her on Twitter.
  • Beth Harte (@bethharte): One of the friendliest people and has a great mind for social issues, not just social media. She knows people, which is the most important part of marketing. Get to the Harte of Marketing with her blog or follow her on Twitter for updates, both venues have volumes of valuable content.
  • Sonny Gill (@sonnygill): I’ve been following Sonny on Twitter for a while now, as well as reading his blog and he’s got great content about using social media and how to make use of the conversation. He’s smart, and a smart dresser, too!
  • Frank Martin (@frankmartin): I just met Frank last night, but he’s a delight in person and on Twitter. His Tweets are phrased to make you process, think, evaluate. He writes a blog about marketing, called Marketing Magic. A great #followfriday for sure.
  • Pamela Martin (@pamelamartin): I also met Pamela last night, wife to Frank, directly above. She’s a fun, funny, and interesting woman in her own right and has great Tweets. She writes a blog called ScatteredSpirit. She also shares my love for fashion, so that’s an obvious plus, as well.
  • Arik Hanson (@arikhanson): Arik is the man behind CommunicationsConversations and a down-to-earth chill guy. He was kind enough to organize a pre-BlogPotomac dinner meet-up for the lot of us last night and was a great host.

There were so many more amazing people that I got to meet in the last two days. I learned so much and had a ton of fun while I was at it! I really hope to make it to another event like this in the future, perhaps the third and final BlogPotomac in October! For now, though, keeping up with all these great minds will have to occur on Twitter.

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Cold and Frosty Beer

Cold and Frosty Beer © Sara Halperin (sweetpaperdoll)

There are some simple things which always remain essential to enjoying summer and for me, one of them is Sam Adams’ Summer Ale. Another is spreading out a blanket across a patch of green grass and sitting in the sun, reading a good book. Hamburgers and corn on the cob, humid days followed by thunderstorms and then drier air, outdoor concerts, sticking my feet in the sand at the ocean.

For me, the essence of summer is where all these things collide and I feel like a kid again, wanting to swing from trees and run around barefoot, picking strawberries from the ground. Summer is my favourite season and I just thought I’d share a little bit of it with you.

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