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"Finding Your Picasso"

I am excited about the release of my book "Finding Your Picasso." It has been a decade in the making and it was definitely a labor of love. The journey for writing this book began December 11, 2007 when I came across the book "Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? How Ordinary People are Raking in $100,000 or More Writing Nonfiction Books and How You Can Too!" by Marc McCutcheon. I followed this book to a T and kept a diary to do the activities. According to one of the activities in the book, I eagerly listed ideas and titles for possible nonfiction books - 4 pages worth. The one the struck me the most - as I had to pick one to start - was the title "I Don't Piss Like a Dog, But I'll Go Fetch: 100 Ways to Accepting You 'As Is.'" From there, I wrote my first activity for taking a hard look at myself and then I did my own activity. I journaled about my hair issues, weight issues, and skin color issues as they all related to media and popular culture. I had no idea that this would be the beginnings of an actual book.

I continued coming up with new activities eventually reaching about 50 as I scoured through articles and books on self-esteem like "10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem: How to End Self-Doubt, Gain Confidence, & Create a Positive Self-Image" by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D.; "Don't Give It Away! A Workbook of Self-Awareness and Self-Affirmation for Young Women" by Iyanla Vanzant; "Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham; and "Six Pillars of Self Esteem" by Nathaniel Branden. One quote I wrote in my diary from the latter was "Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness." Self-esteem created the core person who would function in society. Without it, a person could never be happy living.

These readings led be to rework the activities I'd written to be more active instead of theoretical. One passage I wrote got me to thinking about and researching all things related to weight - plastic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. It read: "A young man made a comment to me saying, 'I don't like fat women. I find it disgusting.' Of course this statement is not a rare occurrence. What made the remark so unusual was that it came from the mouth of a guy weighing no less than 250 pounds, standing at only 5'11" with a double chin and pot belly to boot. I told him he was a hypocrite and I hoped (to myself) that skinny women felt the same of him."

Other passages and thoughts I jotted down segued into researching beauty commercials, popular reality shows at the time like "Biggest Loser," "America's Next Top Model," and "Extreme Makeover," and statistics relating to the beauty industry. About a quarter way in my journal, I was guided by "Damn! Why Didn't I Write That?" to speak from the heart. On January 1, 2008, I wrote: "I know how I feel when I look in the mirror. I'm always disgusted with something. My stomach is too fat and flabby. My thighs are humungous. I can't stand my double chin. My pregnancy left me with a flat ass and, even after breast reduction surgery, my breasts are still huge. I'm always saying I need to lose weight. When I was 135 pounds I wanted to weigh 115. When I was 150 pounds, I wanted to be 135 and now at 170 pounds, I want to weigh 150 again. I've always had a complaint looking in the mirror, never satisfied with what I saw. Now, I'm wondering why? Where did it all start?" Four pages later, I wrote: "Other people made me aware and self conscious about my looks. Other people greatly influenced how we feel about ourselves. And it starts young, the moment an adult looks at us and comments on our looks and comments on other people's appearance, as well as their own. So, how do we reverse the negative comments?"

From that entry, I began taking a more serious look at the beauty industry. I read "Vanity Rules: A History of American Fashion and Beauty" by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, where it talked about how advertisers began realizing their products sold when packaged with pictures of beautiful women, the beginnings of plastic surgery, and the four most popular beauty products sold to black women which were "Black Skin Remover," "Black and White Ointment," Ozonized Ox Marrow," and "Curl-I-Cure: A Cure for Curls." This book fascinated me and I wanted more. I also read "Body Wars: Making Peace with Women's Bodies, An Activist's Guide" by Margo Main, Ph.D., "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, MD., "Selling Dreams: Inside the Beauty Business" by Margaret Allen, "Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media" by Susan J. Douglas, "Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising" by Anthony Joseph Paul Cortese, and several others.

The more I read, the more I realized that I needed to do this book but I didn't want to say what was already said. I kept coming back to the question "how can I help reprogram people's minds to see beauty in a different way?" In one entry, I likened it to my own creative process. I wrote: "If I create something and spend time on it, giving it my all to make it beautiful, then it is beautiful. Last time I checked, each of us took months to create. Each of us have cells and hearts that are working overtime to keep us beautiful. How can someone tell a mother, and God, that the nine months (give or take) that your body took to create, nourish and birth your child was a waste of time because I think your child is ugly and thereby will not get far in life? Moles, pimples, rolls of fat, crooked noses, chubby cheeks, thin lips, big lips, sloped eyes, close eyes, brown hair, white hair, large feet, wide hips - all beautiful. Flat breast, coily hair, long legs, round bellies, bushy brows, dimples on butts, hairy chests, balding heads - all beautiful. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing the same women everywhere I look, over and over again. I'm tired of seeing the same types of white faces everywhere I turn. I challenge photographers. It's easy to photograph someone you believe to be beautiful. Photograph someone you believe to be ugly but, here's the challenge. Photograph them so that you see in the picture what I see everyday - a beautiful creature that God himself molded and shaped to be unique and the only one of its kind without using make-up or computer graphics to alter the picture."

This was my epiphany. This entry gave me direction and led to what is the heart of "Finding Your Picasso." Seeing beauty through the eyes of an artist. Changing your perspective of beauty through the very people who can find beauty in anything. I collected more than 100 quotes about beauty, self-esteem and from artists. I also realized that if I wanted people to have time to reflect on each activity that it had to be one per week instead of 100 in a few months. I also switched from a comedic book to a more reflective and meditative process. I had come a long way from "I Don't Piss Like a Dog, But I'll Go Fetch: 100 Ways to Accepting You 'As Is.'"

I wrote my cover letter and outline for a publisher. I researched which publishers would be more appropriate for submitting my proposal to and I identified my target audience. I invited friends over on April 11, 2008, for a "Conversational Tea" to get feedback on a few of the activities I'd written and to just talk about beauty. I mailed out a few focus group packets that contained a summary, a contract for compensation upon completion, items to complete 3 activities, and a SASE to mail items and forms back to me after one month.

But something was missing. I organized and reorganized my book. The table of contents went through several versions. I wrote an introduction. And then another. And yet another. They were stories. They became stories. I decided at that point to create stories for each chapter of the book which was initially 4. It would take me the remaining 9 years off-and-on to write those stories plus 4 more for the now 8 chapters I settled on, and to go through many more edits of the introduction, chapters, and the design of the book's layout and cover.

But my very last entry in this diary that became my rough draft pretty much sums up that first year of working on "Finding Your Picasso." May 19, 2008, I wrote: "Personal power - something I believe I've been searching for for a long time. I don't think I truly understood it until now. I went hiking yesterday and at points I didn't think I had it in me to keep going. It was hard, painful and challenging for me where it looked like it was easier for the others on the hike - there were 19 of us. But my only real obstacle was me. Keep going or keep everyone waiting. I felt awesome when I finished and ready to conquer another one. I signed up for some other things because of it. There is some where deep inside me a powerful person ready to be released. I've been slowly letter [her] seep out. Now [she] has surfaced and I don't ever want to contain [her] again. Strip completely naked. At home, in the privacy of your bedroom of course. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and, while looking at your entire body, say really loud, "Damn, you're hot." Get dressed and go about your day. Yes! Welcome to your first day of Ms-I-Know-I-Am-Beautiful-and-Divine-and-If-You-Don't-Think-So-You-Can-Kiss-My-Behind! You are beautiful just the way God made you and this journey you are starting will show you why."

Edited slightly, this entry - the last activity I wrote out of about 55 - became activity one. I had come full circle in my beginnings of writing "Finding Your Picasso." Armed with personal power, I finally finished it, and self-published on CreateSpace June 7, 2018. And I know it will inspire many to find their own personal power and see the beauty in themselves.

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