The Hardest Part

believe

… It’s truly the hardest climb, or at least for me it is…

 

Four years ago I started my first semester at college studying illustration and animation– and I truly was unstoppable. With a dream in my head and a fire in my soul I ran forward without hesitation, without doubt. I was young and dumb, which made me dangerous if you ask me.

You see, the longer I attended college… the more I heard of the stress, the difficulty, and the impossibility of becoming a storyteller or artist for a place like Pixar– the job of my dreams. In the beginning, I paid no heed. Sure it was going to be hard, I knew that. But I felt I had something that no other human being on this planet had– my own unique experience and therefore my own unique story to tell.

As the years went on… I gained a plethora of invaluable skills and knowledge. However, what I lost was, in my opinion, the most valuable thing of all– belief and confidence in my own goal… in myself.

I’m gaining it slowly but as I look at the long road ahead with my comic Shattered Mirror, I face my most challenging enemy… doubt. “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever did”. It used to be my screen saver and perhaps it’s time I revisit that now (maybe that will pound the reality of this journey back into my brain).

So what I really wanted to say I suppose is this… never stop believing in yourself. If you’re out there and feeling like me… like you’re not good enough… your story isn’t interesting or original enough… or that the road is too long ahead and you’re too far behind… just keep moving forward with a fire in your heart. Live passionately and never let anyone squelch that flame.

Keep living the dream loves,

~fioza

Week #1– Mindfulness… I’ve been doing this all wrong!

I’ve practiced mindful living before… how hard could this be?

Boy, could I not have been more wrong! In the beginning, I had imagined this week’s challenge panning out so differently than it did in reality– but I guess reality has a habit of doing that to our visions now doesn’t it?

For this week’s challenge, I attempted to cultivate inspiration through mindful living. Attempt would be a good word to describe it! Not to be hard on myself but really… what ended up happening was anything but what I had planned. What I had expected was mornings eased into through yoga and meditation, getting outside and getting in touch with and my inner dialogue while trying to make it more… eh… should I say, forgiving? (There’s a special word to describe how she usually talks to me, but I’ll save your eyes this time.)

What I did realize– however backwards and unorthodox the journey it took– really did open my mind to how I can nurture a more mindful practice in my day to to life from this point forward.

Try leaning into the discomfort instead of denying it the validity it holds in your life

“Try leaning into the discomfort instead of denying it the validity it holds in your life” my grandmother suggested from across the diner booth table. I took a moment to munch on my hash-browns and paused to truly process what she had said. It was simple, just like she had mentioned… something we all latently knew inside, we just need to hear it phrased the right way or be reminded of every now and again for it to hit us. But man did it hit me then.

Every day I was waking up trying to find a schedule that would distract me from my worries and anxieties. When I was stressed, I would leave the house and go for a walk or do a short meditation where I stopped thoughts if I heard them coming to me or go to the gym to exercise my body so I stopped focusing on my mind. And yet, whenever those activities were finished, there were my anxieties… sitting there– waiting for me. Never once did it occur to me to listen to them… to give them the time of day and acknowledge that they did hold some validity. (Even my insecurities and insecure… sheesh talk about needy!)

But really! Our anxieties, even when blown out of proportion, usually do hold a grain of truth and reasoning behind them. Take mine for example:

  1. Continuing my education– “You’ll have to go back for at least four years… and that means dealing with four years worth of American college bills and debt” (valid) “You’ve already spent three years pursuing art and now you’re switching to a different field of study? Takes a lot of time. (valid) “Oh my GOD! I’m gonna be poor and overworked until I’m forty and it’ll probably take that long to even enter my field of study! (… ok now, slow down there mind… not really valid)
  2. Getting a new job– “I have these dates I requested off at my old job… but now I have to tell my new boss I can’t be there all these days after just starting!? (valid… though my future boss is a human being who understands having a life)
  3. Balancing art commissions– (no wait… all invalid. Completely invalid. Nothing but over-perfectionism and unnecessary worry)

So really… how much is there to worry about? Way less than our minds trick us into thinking there is! And doing mindful practices the way I did this week is like having all the right shiny new tools but not having a clue in the world how to use them.

From now on, I want to live walking hand in hand with my emotions.

From now on, I want to live walking hand in hand with my emotions… to take little moments to identify what I’m feeling, acknowledge the good and the bad, and allow them to take the space they deserve– not the space my previous ways have allowed them to hold.

Although finding inner peace was a bust, I’d say this “failure” has taught me more than I could’ve asked for. With my eyes opened I’ll walk toward a brand new week.

See you next time

~Fioza

 

Art as Prostitution

“So why are you in the business of commercial art and not fine art?”

My program coordinator posed this question to us this morning in my Advanced Photoshop class.

Money money money… Yes! That is why!” he exclaimed with a smile on his face.

  • You don’t tell the client it took two hours, you tell them it took four!
  • Don’t share your secrets with others around you, hide them and get ahead!
  • Learn shortcuts, detach from your art
  • And most importantly, do what the client wants!

“We are in this business because we like to prostitute our trade” he joked.

Were willing to do just about anything for a price.

 

I listened to the lecture and felt the curds of vomit begin to form in my stomach. It’s just not right… simply not right at all. Which of us creative people desire to sell out? To think only of what somebody else wants from us and kill all of the scraps left of our creativity?

I’m pretty sure when we were children, not a single one of us would refuse to punch our future selves if we heard ourselves talking like that. And yet… here I was surrounded by classmates who were eagerly shaking their head in agreement, laughing jovially, and awaiting his nuggets of wisdom.

 

hqdefault

image source

I’ve known I was in the wrong program for about a year now… but it still saddens me to see so many people brainwashed and to think that at one point he had me too.

Why is it, I wonder, that today’s society in America puts so little emphasis or appreciation into the arts?

By no means am I saying that the professions we hold in such high esteem are anything less important then what they’re made to be. Or that all commercial artists think this way. Hell yes we need doctors! We couldn’t do so much of what we do without engineers, mathematicians, teachers, scientists and everything in-between! Yet… it seems to be a common denominator throughout the human race as a whole that these jobs keep us physically living, able to function, evolve longer lifespans to survive. 

But we live for the arts.

What would we do without our music on our way to work? Without the movies we go to see with our families and friends? Our T.V. shows? Our books?

Our art sets our mood and allows us to escape the pressures of this world if even momentarily. 

Without it… would we really enjoy life? It’s said to be unessential… cut from school programs while logic and reasoning is shoved down the throats of our future generation. All for what? So we can keep progressing… get a stable job… make a good sum of money…but be numb to the life around us past the age of 12?

I think it’s time for a reset. I think it’s time to cultivate our individuality and creativity. To think outside the box and stop running towards desk jobs and benefits with paid vacations.

It’s time to start asking ourselves the big questions… Who are you? And who do you want?

I’m done listening to other peoples’ fears. Done with group mentalities and doubt and security. There’s no guarantee that any of my stories will become published… no promises that my words will be liked… nothing. I have a dream and a purpose and I’m going to start riding it unaltered towards the light I see until I reach it or die trying. Even if I never reach my goals… at least I can say I lived life the way I wanted, and not the way some client told me to.

Life’s to short to spend 40 hours a week hating it… Live a life you won’t regret.

~Fioza

Inspire Daily– ed.2

ed2quote

 

If you’ve ever tackled a big piece of work… this is a constant issue, am I right!?

Whether it’s a whole freaking novel being birthed from your brain, or a 40×60 painting etc… finding the inspiration to keep going strong for the hours or weeks or months or years it takes to push that baby out can be one of the toughest roadblocks.

I’ve spent years in the past waiting for the moment it feels right to write Aubrey’s story… begin that novel… make that art piece etc. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned through those experiences, its that there will never BE a right time. 

The best times of my life have happened when I am dedicated enough show up in my own life daily and make something happen, whether I feel like it or not. So let us continue to have the courage to look inwards, acknowledge our dreams, and make daily baby steps through self made inspiration… walking together all the way 🙂 Let us support each other.

Yours always,

~Fioza

 

image source

The Importance of Slowing Down

So, this past weekend was Labor Day… and as any of you who celebrate it know– it’s meant for anything BUT labor.

I went “upnorth” as us Michiganders say, to Gaylord with my lovely Greg and his family.

Inevitably… like any time I take a slight haitus from the everyday hustle and bustle of life, I found a strengthening in my belief of the power of relaxation and disconnection from stress/ routine.

Often times I find myself stressing for no reason.

Okay head, what’s going on?

No response.

You’ve got homework…school…work…a bit of a family crisis

Hum of panic begins brewing.

Hey hey hey! But it’s nothing we can’t tackle like we have a million times before right?

And still… no answer, just a lingering sense of discomfort that threatens to grow hourly.

My mind doesn’t answer, because I’m still working full speed. I believe full well in the saying “Dreams don’t work unless you do”, so I’m always throttling full speed ahead– completing classwork, building a portfolio, working, blogging, and balancing my world of 300 some minions… all the while trying to make room for relationships and “normal” life.

But here’s the kicker: In order to experience life and hold substance behind our voice, we must slow down and live in the moment. It is only then that we are truly open to everything around us. 

Watching Fred (Greg’s pup)… it hit me. The scene was gorgeous. Not because he’s the beautifully handsome little man he is, but because he wasn’t concerning himself with anything other than what was happening right here, right now. 

I practiced Fred’s way of life completely for those two days… and what happened was breathtaking.

Soubi, a character of mine I have known for 11 years now stayed with me for the entire time. I learned the truth behind his life before me… wiped away false tales I had thought I heard in the past… found his mother and father who I didn’t believe were alive… and truly… really connected.

Because of this past weekend I have un-erasable and irreplaceable memories and experiences with him that have grown a better foundation to our friendship and ability to communicate.

That ability… to slow down and LISTEN… is the best tool I can possibly offer you to connecting with your characters and writing. It is priceless and will shape not only the way you write, but the way you live.

So instead of scripting out dialogue and scratching your head over where to go next or how so-and-so would react… listen to so-and-so! Let them tell you. Build a relationship with that person and part of yourself and open your own door to the world inside your mind.

 

That’s all folks! Join me next time!

img_1753

~Fioza

 

 

 

Expand your World

My teacher once told me…

“you can never judge a piece of art without first participating in it.”

At first I must admit, I was confused. To participate in art? What does she mean? I’ve heard of some pretty crazy “participation art” pieces in my art school days but I hardly believed that was what she was encouraging for class… (look it up, crazy stuff! I won’t even mention the details here)

She went on to show us this piece

picasso-guernica-full

(Guernica by Pablo Picasso)

Being a student of art, I do love myself some modern pieces and have a more than slight obsession with the Vienna Secession… so I loved it immediately. Though the majority of my classmates said they’d never want this on their wall.

The participation process she described to us can be applied not only to art… but to life in general

It goes: Participation- Analysis- Perception- Appreciation (Papa!)

  1. First, we instinctively judge the piece– With anything in life we do this… people, places, cultures etc. And it is killing our creativity and the wholesomeness of our lives.
  2. We must CHALLENGE our subjective opinion. Research whatever it is you’re judging. If we stay uncultured to things unfamiliar to us… we can never learn the perspective they have to offer. 

As human beings we naturally crave comfort, but for growth and opening to happen we must step outside of our comfort zones. It is only there that we will broaden our perspective.

3. Once we’ve done a little research into where that person is coming from, we will add our own perception. Just like a piece of art, every one of us will judge an experience differently due to their our past experiences.

4. Now that we have sat with that experience we can revisit it and truly know how we feel. We can find comfort in the fact that we tried. It’s ok if you don’t like that piece of art, don’t agree with parts of that religion, or don’t enjoy that individual’s personality. You’ve honestly looked at the inside of that experience and not judged it for lack of better words…by its cover.

Keeping an open mind is important to anyone, but I as a writer find it extremely important to my trade.

How can I write about a woman who lives in Turkey, if I don’t know what daily life in Turkey is like?

Jumping out of our comfort zones can help enrich ourselves and our stories, bringing a new substantive feeling we can no longer return from once we’ve triggered it. So here’s my challenge to you…

If you’re writing the story of someone struggling with depression… open yourself up to your own sadness and feel it with them. If you’re writing about someone leading a revolution… research revolutions of the past and understand the struggles they will face in their everyday lives.

Go out and live life… grip it in your hands… feel it! As one of my favorite writers once said:

 

“…I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…”

~Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

Inspire Daily #1

Every day, you beautiful people inspire me to go forth and do what I love. So every day… I’m going to inspire you back 🙂 Deal.

So today, Im gonna get you out of your rut! Who doesn’t like inspirational quotes to start the day?

Ok…get ready… the bombardment awaits!

havenofear

“The Earth is only a little dust under our feet” people!

And doubt is the #1 killer of dreams! Bonafide fact there… mhmmm.

We are writers, creators, dreamers and makers of the wildest of dreams. So let not this dust stop you from creating a world more beautiful than the one in front of your eyes.

followyourdreamsandcatchthem

…So chase them! What are you waiting for? You have to be brave enough and bold enough to chase after those balloon dreams. I don’t know… they seem kinda intimidating to me but I believe in you!

flare_crazy

…and afterall, isn’t it crazier to NOT try? Think of all that’s at stake if you give up now.

img_4011

I know it seems like there’s no clear path ahead… no promise that you’ll get where you want to go… but you know the answers. Reach inside and ignore the external pressures of daily life and you will find without a doubt where you need to go. Your job now is to make sure those visions reach all of us because hell… they’ll be greatly missed if not.

379344_520851074626809_1688023507_n

And make one I will. I hope you’ll follow me in blazing your own path through this beautifully hectic world of ours.

Take this inspiration and make today a day worth living.

51464_funny_doge_doge_follow_your_dreams

Always yours,

~Fioza

My inspiration as a writer

Sure beats the hospital!

Today I’d like to share my celebration of this wonderful man’s return home after a long battle with surgeries and cancer. 

My grandpa, James Parker returned home from the hospital today after weeks of recovery and a major operation. Just weeks ago we shared a terrible discovery that he had developed a second kind of cancer (he already had battled another kind for around 10 years). 

When we found out I was unable to hold it together. With the surgeon in the room and my whole family trying to be strong- the news I heard sounded like a death sentence and I lost it at the thought of loosing this wonderful soul from my life. 

My grandpa on the other hand looked at me and quoted what I had told him when I was only a young girl. With a smile on his face he said “well you know what Jamie? Like a wise girl once told me… We’re just gonna have to deal with it”. 

And what else could be said? Truly that is all we could do. You move on and deal with the things you’re dealt with, or you simply refuse to move. That’s all there is to it. 

As a child, I don’t know if I was as wise as he thought I was, or if I didn’t truly understand the gravity of the situation. My grandfather on the other hand has showed me more strength and optimism out of one person than I could have ever believed possible… And is continuing to do so even in the face of Chemo and stage 3 cancer at the age of 78. 

This man is my hero. The fact that he published a book and has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and given me countless words of advice and inspiration comes second to the frame of mind and lifestyle he has taught me throughout the years. I wouldn’t have half the optimism I have if it wasn’t for him. 

If you have a hero like my Grandpa, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about the people that helped shape your lovely minds 🙂 

~Keep on being positive and “dealing” with the roadblocks life throws you. We will be victorious ❤️

A world trapped inside

worldtrappedinperson

 

I am not one– I am many

Woven together to create a mosaic identity

My eyes, imperfect mirrors reflecting only part

Of this consummate creation– the truths in my heart

~Fioza Leigh-Rhodes

Us writers are blessed with a single body that we must rely on to express vast spaces with even more vast personalities… but that’s why we write. 

For a long time, I got stuck on the idea of perfection. Unable to simply dump ideas and come back to them later, I edited as I wrote– scrutinized every word and stressed over every syllable. That is, until I found a quote from Pixar’s rules of storytelling:

“If it stays in your head, a perfect idea

You’ll never share it with anyone

~Pixar animation

After all… our words can’t reach a single soul or give a voice to our beloved characters if we never work to try.

So here’s my challenge to you. In a comment below geek out about a character! Whether they’re your original character or someone else’s, let go of the pressure and just have fun. Let us inspire one another and remind ourselves why we do what we do.

Tootles loves!

https://mic.com/articles/101740/the-22-rules-to-perfect-storytelling-according-to-pixar#.cF9FxLTgf

^Follow the link above to see the complete list of Pixar’s storytelling rules reblogged by Jared Keller and based off of Emma Coat’s 2012 tweets of wisdom gained from Pixar after years of working there.

This list has served as inspiration in the hardest of times throughout my years and I hope they can help you as well!