Advice from a Friend

(…or, all of the best advice I’ve been given by friends and family.)

Hold onto your seats folks, this is going to be a long one.

Tonight, while I was making a new Twitter friend (thank you again #HavenFamily) we got to talking about school and how we feel like we made some bad decisions regarding our chosen studies. We both studied things that weren’t quite what we wanted to do but were realistic and safe. In the end though you just can’t escape your fate and even though we decided to pursue our dreams, we feel a little behind.

Wait. Seriously? At twenty-five. I’m behind the ball at twenty-five?!? Take a step back from that for a second. No one is behind in the game at my age. If you know what you want to do and aren’t afraid to do it at seventeen then you are one of the ridiculously, lucky few. Almost no one knows what they want at any given time. We are all stumbling blindly through this life together and sometimes we fall into the things we want and sometimes we don’t. The important thing to remember is that we aren’t in it alone.

I’ve been given a lot of good advice in my life. A lot. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a supportive and dedicated family/friend group and I would like to share what they’ve taught me with you. Let me preface this by saying that I, by no means, have it together. I have been on the verge of emotional breakdown at least three times in the last four days. It’s only by being in the mess that you can empathize with those who are in it with you. So, grab my hand and we will make it though this together.

The List

1. Never Compare Yourself to Others 

This is super important for anyone in or just getting out of school. Everyone does it and it’s a really hard habit to break. It’s so easy to look around you to see what everyone is doing and think “I really wish I was that good.” Never do that. There will always be someone who is better than you, smarter than you and quicker than you. They are by no means greater than you. Everyone is different and everyone has something to bring to the table. Judging yourself based on others accomplishments will kill your motivation and keep you down. See what they’re doing, appreciate it, emulate their passion and move on. Seriously. Let it go. You’re awesome too. (A special thanks to Cory Howard for always reminding me of this one when I need it.)

And, while we are on the subject:

2. Give Yourself a Break

Nothing kills creativity faster than depression. That deep hole of world suck that surrounds your soul and steals your motivation is just an endless loop of pain. If you’re feeling it then it’s only going to get worse unless you learn to let it go. Kick back for a day or two. Distract yourself with books, friends, media, whatever it takes. Slap on a smile and tell yourself that you can do it until you actually believe it too.

3. Experience New Things

This will also help when you’re trying to give yourself a break. Inspiration strikes the informed mind. Reading, going to museums, meeting new people with new and unique ideas will all help you to be a better person. Knowledge fuels creativity and productivity so if you’re feeling like you’ve hit a wall, it’s probably time that you got out and experienced something.

4. Love Things

For the love of all that is good in this world, please, love things. If you’re going to enjoy something, take the time to really enjoy it. Explore it, learn it and never be ashamed of how much you love it. When you love something, it inspires and motivates you. That’s the greatest power we have.

5. Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Not to Love Something

If you’re like me and you enjoy interacting with people who are fans of things that you love then I am sure you’ve seen your share of blinding-rage-balls-of-hate. It’s important to let other love things the way that they want to love them. You may not get it. You may not like it. But it makes them happy and that’s all that matters. Stop fighting over the stupid stuff and let everyone else enjoy whatever makes their heart happy. Hopefully, they’ll do the same.

That being said, there are also  people in this world who are so unhappy that they feel like everyone else should be just as unhappy as they are. They will do their best to tear into everything you love and rip it into tiny hate pieces. Ignore them. You’ll be happier and, in truth, it really pisses them off when you don’t feed into it. It’s a win-win situation. To touch on that and to revisit point #2:

6. Give Other People a Break

We are all going through life together. We are all trying to figure out what will make us the happiest. We are all the same. Deep down, we just want to be happy. However, none of our journeys are 100% the same. We were’t all given the same lots in life and some people are experiencing serious obstacles. Remember that and give them a break.

You have no idea what someone is going through or why they behave the way that they do. What you do know, is how you will handle your interactions with them. You have the power to lay off the car horn (those are for alerting people to your presence, not for expressing displeasure). You have the power to let someone cut you in line, let muttered insults go and to be short with you at work. Let that stuff go. You’ll be happier when you’ve stopped thinking about it and they’ll be happier when they’ve gotten past whatever put them in that mood.

I honestly can’t talk about this enough. It’s hard to do and you may have to trick your brain into it but I can tell you that it makes every interaction I have better when I assume that the person I’m interacting with might just be having a really bad day. Never assume the worst before assuming the best. Have some perspective and allow yourself to be happy.

7. Be Happy

That’s it. Happiness is a state of being. If you’re not happy it’s because you’re not letting yourself be happy. No person or thing can do that for you. Having more money, less debt, more friends, less work, won’t change how you feel for more than a few days. This is the hardest thing to accept for most people. You have to start every day thinking about being happy. Not all days are going to be great but we have one life and spending most of it appreciating what we have is a really great way to live it. And before you start arguing with me I will tell you that happiness is 100% a choice. It’s about your perspective and if you’re unhappy every day then you either need to change your perspective or change your situation.

8. Stop Being Afraid

This has been my mantra for the last year. I let fear dictate a lot of things in my life and it’s only when I stopped being afraid that I started feeling driven. Fear just isn’t worth it. Note: I am not talking about logical fear, like being afraid of wild bears. Darwinism is very real, even though it may not always seem like it. Stop being afraid to strive for the things you want. The obstacles are what make you better and prepare you for the reward. Enjoy the obstacles and stop letting your fear dictate your life.

9. Money Isn’t an Excuse for Avoidance

We all have money trouble. The world is changing, the job market is bad and student loan debt just keeps on a’climbin’. Staring at the bills and mulling over the quickest way to pay or how much you’ll have to save for this thing or that thing will tear you up. I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t think about these things. I’m saying that you can’t let them control you. When you are on your death bed are you going to be regretting buying that DVD when funds were low when you were thirty or will you be remembering those five great movie nights you had with your friends? Don’t be stupid but don’t beat yourself up either. You only every regret the things you didn’t do and the trips you didn’t take.

10. Find People Who Are Doing What You’re Doing

Feeling unmotivated? Are you in a rut or an endless cycle of ‘I should be but I’m not’? Find people who are doing what you want to be doing and hang out with them. I’m serious. Be near them. Bask in their productiveness. Watch what they’re doing and let it inspire you too. Humans need other humans to motivate them. Creativity is crowd-funded and without a crowd your power cells deplete. We have access to the internet, use it. Find blogs that you love and submit content or rent a studio in an artist community and go to as many events as possible.

This is a huge part of why I decided to move to Los Angeles. It’s a giant collection of people who love things and have a passion for creative collaboration. Find what you’re passionate about and seek out others who are the same. You can’t help but to be motivated when you’re constantly being inspired by others. Communities can get you through anything.

11. Learn to Accept People for Who They Are

I’ve had a mantra since high school about how people should treat friendship. There are a lot of people in this world and not the everyone is going to be your best friend. That doesn’t mean that they have to offer isn’t valuable. You have to learn not to hold your friends up to your preconceived standards. One friend might be someone hang out with every day and one might be someone you only see every couple of years. That does’t mean that they are less of a friend. They are just a different kind of friend. Holding them to the same standards as your best friend isn’t fair to them or to you. It’s ok to have different kinds of friends and to accept them for who they are and for what you inspire in each other.

12. Make Friends, Not Networks

Since I’ve moved and been looking for work, networking has been brought up to me a lot. What I hate about it is that feeling that someone might think you only want to know them because of what they can do for you. Networking is great. If someone (mostly old students of mine or new alumni) writes to me or calls me and wants to ask for advice about careers or school I am more than willing to talk with them about it. Sharing our experiences is all a part of being human. Like I said, we are all in this together.

What I don’t like is having people believe that I only care about them personally because of what they can do for me professionally. Everyone on this earth has a special gift or talent that is worth learning about. You can find something to relate to with everyone you meet. The fun part is finding whatever that thing may be. Being able to relate to someone makes it ten times easier to learn from them.

It’s great to have mentors and people to talk to about professional things. LinkedIn and Twitter are great for building a network of people with similar interests that you can connect with if you need work or information. The thing is, all of these people, are human beings. If I’m going to reach out to someone, I am going to treat them with the same respect that I treat the rest of my friends. They should be getting something out of the conversation too even if kindness is all that you have to offer.

Conclusion

Well, that’s the bulk of some of the best advice I’ve gotten up ’til now. I know it’s a lot and if you’ve made it this far then I applaud you. I hope this advice will help to inspire and motivate you as much as it has for me. I wanted to write it down so that I could also refer back to it. Life is a learning process and taking notes is never a bad idea. Actually, that’s another piece of advice. Take a hell of a lot of notes.

I think the most important piece of advice is something I haven’t mentioned yet and something that I’d like to leave you with:

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be from friends, family members, mentors or strangers. If you don’t know something or if you just need someone to lean on, never be afraid to ask them for help. Having help is what makes the struggle to get through this life a little bit less daunting.

If you’re having a tough time or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me by email, through this site or through Twitter (@alyssahoman). I always have time for you.

Passion and Fandom Culture

I seem to have tumbled into one of the nicest, most insane fandoms of all time.

I’m not stranger to fandom culture. I have a Harry Potter/Star Trek/Stargate tattoo. Trust me, I’ve been this nerdy for a while. I usually try to remain an outlier because I just don’t seem to have the necessary amount of time to devote to the cause and when you have an addictive personality you tend to get hyper focused on that one thing. This will lead to slacking on the important life things and I just can’t afford to do that. For me it means that I am being too obsessive with another person’s creative work to create work of my own and let’s face it, I can’t compete with the time commitment of the people who get to be obsessive for a living. Or the 15 year old girls who are BAMFs at running full fan communities. Seriously. How do they do it?

Through teaching and through my fan community fringe drifting I have seen my share of amazingly talented kids. Smart, witty, thoughtful and driven kids. I have recently found myself so envious of them. They can create these social circles and connections that produce a multitude of art and interaction. It’s a beautiful thing and it just seems to come so easily to them. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this and that their access to the internet and current social tools has a lot to do with it. The one thing that can’t be attributed to access is passion. People have always been passionate about things. Without passion there can be no creation (double entendre intended) and creation is, to me, the purpose of living.

The plight of the obsessives

I don’t think the world gives enough credit to obsessives. These women/men who love something so much that they are driven to create things and discuss all things surrounding it. There was a period of time in which people dismissed or hated these people. That whole period in the 80’s and 90’s where geeks were vilified simply for being so passionate that it would intimidate people. It was and still is intimidating and it can be off-putting if that person comes on too strong but that doesn’t mean that passion should be cast aside. Passion when harnessed is what leads to greatness.

The first fan community that I finally caved and participated in was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I am passionate about a lot of shows but LBD was the least intimidating and I found my foothold in the Reddit group. I now have internet friends that I keep in contact with for things outside the LBD community. They are smart, dynamic people who love to be creative and share their passions too. Who knows, some of us may end up collaborating down the road. After all, when it comes time to start a big project I have this great new set of connections with specific talents and similar interests that I know I can collaborate well with. It’s a beautiful thing.

How fandoms can facilitate art

The fan group I have recently found myself in is for Haven (as you probably could have guessed). Haven fans are so welcoming and eager to share their love of the show with you. The insane part is that they seem to always be online. They are always sharing and creating and discussing and it’s wonderful and beautiful and terrifying. Terrifying because I can’t keep up but wonderful because I am always welcome pick up where I left off. Television has been such an intrinsic part of my life for so long and I finally have a creative outlet to express what it has meant to me. The sense of community is the foundation of all of that.

I firmly believe that mankind has always experienced this in regards to the arts. Renaissance painters studied the works of their mentors in close-knit schools trying to emulate their styles in hopes of being allowed to help the master’s create their work. We do the same thing now. We just happen to have lost the spatial boundaries (why, thank you internet!) and gained convention centers! Even better, people who create work love having fans. Fans are the people who truly appreciate the work and that’s all any of us want really. To find other people who love the same things and to create things that inspire them and help them understand that they aren’t alone.

I guess what I am saying is, don’t be dismissive of obsessive fans. That’s where all of the creativity is happening. Being creative about things that you love helps you to get better at the things that you do. Once you’ve honed those skills you will be better able to communicate your own unique concepts. It makes everything else less daunting and far more worthwhile.

All right. That’s enough of me justifying my obsessive nature. Have these other fan art promos I’ve been working on. If you have anything that you’d like to share I would be honored to see it.

Note: I get my images off of a standard Google image search. I don’t own them and I take no credit for them. The photo manipulation is what I do.

#DiscoverHaven

So it’s come to my attention that I don’t have many examples of photo manipulation and retouching in my portfolio. I also feel like there’s not nearly enough fan art in there. Since, my current T.V. obsession is Haven I decided some promotional posters were in order. 

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Audrey Parker

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Nathan Wuornos

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Duke Crocker

Fair warning, my favorite networks are Syfy and CW so for the foreseeable future that will be what I am making fan art for. I am well aware that these not everyone’s cup of tea but I couldn’t care less because they should be. Supernatural and Nikita are next. Now go and catch up on your Syfy and CW programming. Idjits.

An open letter to news media.

My blog isn’t followed by very many people. My audience is small and specific to my personal interests. I don’t have a large reach and it’s definitely not anywhere near what major news stations are able to communicate to. What I do have, and I hope you’ll agree, is a sense of integrity.

I don’t talk about things I don’t like. I’m upfront about my beliefs and, more specifically, making sure people know that they are just that: my beliefs. 

Tonight I watched Fox 11, a news station in Los Angeles, run a misleading and inflammatory preview for what I’m sure will end up being a misleading and inflammatory segment about pitbulls and the “pitbull problem”. As many of you know I have been an active and outspoken pitbull, shelter and owner responsibility advocate for three years now. I’ve also had a pretty bad week and a half so to say that it made me angry is quite the understatement. The news ruined what was supposed to be a relaxing evening with two of my favorite shows. I took to Facebook to voice my displeasure but it’s just not enough. It’s like walking into a crowded train station and trying to yell above the din. Ineffective, unsatisfying and lonely.

The problem is that this segment is just a symptom of a bigger issue. One that has been written about and expressed again and again but to no avail. The news no longer keeps us informed. It doesn’t provide us with the services it once did. It doesn’t give us a voice or keep us free anymore. It’s a soundbite. A tagline. A single, uninformed voice.

There’s no research anymore. It’s become a rush to see who can get the latest soundbite out the fastest. It’s about money and power and most importantly, keeping us dumb. I don’t know if you’ve picked up a paper or turned on the local news recently but there’s now more exposition than facts being reported. It’s as if they actually believe that humanity can’t be trusted to take in facts and come up with their own solutions. They are eliminating our deductive reasoning on a daily basis and it has to stop.

One day, in Ohio a few years ago, I stopped watching the morning news. I watched Andy Dominiyani and his co-anchor make fun of a woman that they were reporting on. The saddest part was that the story had been biased in her favor. They made fun of her. Blatantly. On a live broadcast. Not because it was a time for editorializing. They made fun of her because they thought the were better than her and that they were better at judging her character than anyone else. I turned off the local news that day. I put down the paper and I stopped paying attention. I have to source my news from several different sources. None of that is any better in the end but being uninformed would be even worse. 

Now it’s about being better at disregarding the bias than they are at spewing it. There’s no class for that. Worse yet, there are a lot of people who listen to the news and trust these people to make their judgements for them because, as reporters, they MUST be smarter, right? 

I have two points to make and then I will go back to my standard posts.

1. Learn to think for yourself. 

No one is qualified to decide how you feel other than you. Giving up and letting others lead your mind is giving yourself over to another person’s control. That’s enslavement. Feel how you feel and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have that right. 

2. If you have a platform that reaches above the din then you have a responsibility to be honest.

You have a voice. A voice so many people wish they had. With that voice comes a great responsibility to be honest and it should never be abused. Tell the truth, give us facts without bias and let everyone else think for themselves. If they are asking for your opinion, be honest, but remember that what they do with that information is on you too. You’re not exempt from responsibility once it leaves your mouth or your brain. You have that power and responsibility to own it and make damn sure that you’re damn sure about what you’re saying.

I’ll hop down off of my soapbox but I’ll leave you with this: Everything that I say here, I mean. If I change my mind or beliefs I will be the first person to let you know, right here. I am always open to new opinions and ideas but when I change my mind I do it because I was given facts and information that I agreed with. Not because somebody else told me to. 

Oh, and do some research before inciting a public riot against pitbulls. We advocates outnumber you and we are a lot more passionate. We also have cute, fuzzy dogs at our disposal and look what that did for YouTube. 

Candles

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I’m a candle snob. It’s come up a surprising amount since I’ve moved. I can’t help it though. My hometown was founded by candle-makers and no other candles can compare to the quality of that lineage.

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Apparently they sell these candles here which is exciting for me. Once my current stash is gone I am going to be seeking more out or ordering from the website. There’s just something about the smell of each one that will trigger some great memories. The store itself is wonderful. They have every candle accouterment you would need and they help you to design your space around the candles based on color and fragrance. There’s also an awesome outlet in the back for candles that don’t meet the quality standards. Personally, I couldn’t care less if my candle is the wrong color or the label is off-center.

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A.I. Root Candle Factory was what built Medina, Ohio back when Cleveland was the steel capital and they were still using linotypes. The history of the town was integral to our history classes, our mascots were bees and we could never have a real Christmas without a Cranberry candle.

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There’s only so much I can say about candles I guess but just know, as I sit in my apartment in L.A., I have a Blissful Sunrise candle sitting right next to me.

We all feel the same.

We need more female directors. 

That was my first thought after watching An Invisible Sign which was directed by Marilyn Agrelo. A woman. Which is nice.

But then I got to thinking about my childhood and about my life now. When I was little I was (and probably still am) a weird kid. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to like everything. Except pink. I didn’t want to like pink. 

Pink was girly. Pink was everything I didn’t want to be. It represented vapidness, shallowness and above all it represented meanness. The girls who liked pink didn’t want to know everything or be anything. They wanted the boys to notice them, to make the cheer squad and to be as feminine as possible. They made me feel bad for not feeling that way. I wanted to go to space camp, dig up dinosaur bones and be the best catcher in my softball league. They didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them and in the end that was totally okay. 

We are all okay now. We are adults with lives and ambitions and just because they weren’t the same doesn’t mean any of us were wrong. But, what it meant for me was that I had a little adversity to overcome and most of it was brought on by me. When I think back to all the times that I felt isolated and mocked I realized that most of the time it was in my head. When you are one of the few people who thinks a certain way you have a hard time seeing from anyone else’s perspective. I didn’t like how I made myself feel and I took it out on them and I think I’m still working through that. 

Now though, I realize that it’s these same issues that I think a lot of people, including myself, are blinded with today. We grow up seeing movies and television and reading books that enforce how we all felt as children. They hone in on the way society made us all feel and how we made ourselves feel and that perpetuated the stereotypes of girly and manly and everything in between. All of that causes what I think may be the biggest injustice which is the fact that we forget how we actually feel. I hated pink. Not because pink was a bad color but because it made me feel less than the girls who did. And I missed out on a lot of great pink. 

We all feel the same. What I mean is that we all have deep, crushing feelings and we forget that everyone has them too. We don’t need more female directors per se. We need more directors who know how they feel. J.K. Rowling successfully wrote a book from the perspective of a young boy. She did this because she realized the one thing that most people don’t. We all feel the same. 

Harry Potter’s feelings, reactions and emotions were exactly how we all felt growing up. She wrote a character that could be any of us. Take away the gender and it’s still the same. That’s exactly what we need. 

Fear is not forever.

When I was in middle school I wanted to paint my walls like Lothlorien. We didn’t have the money and even though I hated my pink walls they had to stay. I couldn’t understand why people painted their walls solid colors. A wall that’s a solid color is a wall. I wall that’s a forest could be anything.  

Now that I am out of school and experiencing all of rigors of the real world I keep thinking back to my childhood and wondering why I thought that I could never have a truly creative job. I feel like I am dragging myself, kicking and screaming, into doing what I want to be doing. I knew I could be anything as long as anything was a lawyer, a scientist or a graphic designer. Being a writer, director or sculptor? That as never a realistic thing. 

Now I’m surrounded by options and I have no idea what I want to do because I want to do it all. I want to create things in several mediums and express how I feel. I want to make movies, write a graphic novel and write a children’s book. I want to make completely immersive environments in parks, museums and galleries so that any kid can walk in and experience what it’s like to be somewhere else. I want to find my imagination again. The imagination I lost when I thought I couldn’t be something. 

After that, I want to teach. I want every kid to know what they have at their feet. I want the limitations to stop and I want them to have someone to talk to about how they feel and to help them find the best way to express how they feel to the world. Because we need more people who feel.

We all feel the same.  

So, I moved to Los Angeles.

Yep. I packed up my little two door car with whatever would fit in the trunk, grabbed my dog and two best friends (Sandi and Gwen) and drove from Ohio to Los Angeles.

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Ok, this is in Albuquerque but it’s a good summary of the packing job.

We drove to New Orleans first to visit my friends Jen and David for a day. We had an epic time eating delicious food, shopping and listening to all of the amazing pick-up jazz bands that would play on the streets. We even danced in the rain on the bank of the Mississippi. It was pretty amazing and I miss Louisiana already.

IMG_0714Aren’t Jen and David adorable?

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Next we drove an insane 20 hours to Albuquerque, NM, which was probably once of the worst drives for us. Being cooped up in a jam-packed car that long is not very fun. We decided to do AirBnB so the house that we finally arrived at was beautiful. In the morning, the woman who owns the house made us Huevos Rancheros and gave us a wonderful send-off. On our way out of town we swung by Walter White’s house for a quick look and made a stop by the Rattlesnake Museum to pick up Craig Ferguson’s rattlesnake mug for my mom.

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From there it was on to Sedona, the most beautiful land I have ever seen. We were surrounded by red rocks and amazing landscapes. The AirBnB place we stayed in way phenomenal. We collapsed inside with all of our stuff and everything we could possibly need was waiting for us. Jocelyn had set up this wonderful private cottage with full amenities and it was heaven after this long trip. We spent a day in Sedona and wandered around the downtown which is wonderful in a touristy way. Lots of magic, UFO and paranormal energies and shops.

During this trip we had signed up for GISHWHES (if you don’t know what that is, please, look it up and participate in the next one) and had some tasks to complete for our team: GISHWizardslovesAgoraphobicLobsters. The second half of our day was spent at the gorgeous Grand Canyon. We claimed it as our own and raged against the dying of the light. It was one of the greatest bonding experiences we could ever share.

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This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Leaving Sedona was tough but we decided to make one more stop in the most haunted town in the United States: Jerome, AZ. We had one more GISHWHES task to complete:

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At this point, Gracie was tired of walking up mountains and my car (Walt as I so fondly named him) was having a rough time too. So we packed ourselves in and made the rest of the journey to Los Angeles.

Now I am here and it’s already been a great experience. I’m staying on a couch until my room is ready but it’s only been a week and I’ve already been asked in for a few job interviews (one of which I am seriously crossing my fingers for). I have coffee and dinner dates set up with old and new friends and family. I even got to reunite with a childhood family friend who is an absolute delight.

I think I made one of the best decisions I ever could in deciding to move here and I am enjoying it so much already. I am getting back to what I wanted to do with my life and doing creative things with creative people. It was an amazing journey to get here and hopefully it will continue to be.

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