No one knows what is in my coffee at work. I have a giant fart brewing as I write this. The black eye was from the boyfriend, not the door.
Could any of these secrets be yours? At postsecret.blogspot.com, homemade secrets written on postcards find themselves in Frank Warren’s mailbox, sometimes totaling 1,000 each week before he selects and posts them on Sundays for the world to reminisce, relate, or sometimes become amazed or angry. In preparation for the launch of his new book, “My Secret,” which will be released on Oct. 24, Warren will be speaking on campus at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the Grand Salon of the USU.
Warren, who describes himself as a “boring suburban dad,” lives in Maryland with his wife and daughter, and never intended for Post Secret to become what it is today.
It all started out as a community art project, in which Warren printed 3,000 postcards, passed them out to strangers in Washington D.C and asked them to write their secrets down and mail them to him. When 100 of those 3,000 came back, they were displayed in a public art exhibition in Washington D.C and when it closed, that was the end of project.
Soon, however, postcards began arriving every week. “People began hand-making them and they began coming from different states,” he said.
Some are heartbreaking, others nostalgic. A few are so entertaining that it would probably be a good idea to put down that cup of coffee while reading them.
Just browsing Post Secret, you will come upon postcards containing secrets you might have yourself. Some have ideas you wish you had thought of. There are photographs with typed out phrases resembling a ransom note. One secret revealer even sent in a real parking ticket that read “I got a parking citation and so did the car next to me. I replaced the ticket on the car next to me with mine. My ticket got paid. And the one I took? I mailed it to post secret.”
Another sent in a photo of the Twin Towers burning into oblivion, an image we’ve all come to know since 9/11 inscribed with a chilling message: “He should have been at work that day. I wish he had been.”
Others are heartfelt and simple, like the postcard that read “Sometimes I still keep one eye open after I’ve supposedly gone to sleep, just in case my stuffed animals come to life.”
Warren is drawn to selecting secrets that he has never seen before.
” I also pick secrets that represent all our human emotions, humor, sex, optimism, anguish, remorse and kindness,” he said.
Seventy thousand postcards later, this community art project has grown to include communities from all over the world and even awards from the blogosphere. In the 2006 annual Weblog Awards, the Post Secret website received five Bloggies: Best American Weblog, Best Topical Weblog, Best Community Weblog, Best New Weblog and Weblog of the year.
“The ideas (have) just spread.” Warren said. “There seems to be a need that I tapped into for this and I wanted to continue to share them.”
The bulk of the postcards arrive from the United States and the rest are divided between the U.K, South America, and various other countries. They even come in all different languages, including Portuguese, Italian, sign language, Braille and even Morse Code, Warren said.
The premise of the project is quite clear. You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to Post Secret, the Website says. You can reveal anything, as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. You can create your postcards out of any mailable material, however, there are some postcard tips that Warren includes on the site: “Be brief, be legible and be creative.”
Although he receives countless postcards each week, Warren finds that people who submit their secrets fail to keep in touch.
“I think when you face your secret on a post card, you release it to a stranger and you take steps on your own to figure things out,” he said.
Sometimes the postcards arrive damaged, completely changing the intended meaning of the owner of the secret.
Warren once received a damage postcard, which he subsequently posted on the site. He then received an email from someone who claimed the postcard and admitted that although he had made it up because he thought it would have been a good read, since the meaning had been altered, the secret had become true.
“Art can play interesting games,” Warren said. “It can work in mysterious ways.”
Although Warren says he does not know why there has been such a need for people to reveal their secrets, he does have some ideas of why they might be attracted to the site.
“Some might be coming initially as voyeurists and out of curiosity, but once they see the sincerity and genuinity of these secrets, you recognize beliefs, fears and hopes. My hope is that when people come to the web site that they learn and understand something about themselves,” he said.
Warren’s new book, “My Secret,” is a collection of personally selected and never before seen postcards created by teens and college students. Warren already has two Post Secret books published – “The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book” and “Post Secret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives” – but this book focuses on a specific demographic.
“I think secrets from young people can be a little more heavy in their anguish and also I think they seem more alive than the other secrets I receive.”
In anticipation for the speaking event on campus, the USU is urging students to submit their own handmade postcards, which they can drop off at the USU Information Center, Blank postcards are also provided. Before Warren speaks, there will be an exhibition of postcards available for viewing displayed from 11:30 a.m. until 2:20 p.m. in the Grand Salon of the USU.
In addition to answering questions, Warren will be talking about the history of the project, and how it has developed and changed over time.
“I will also be sharing some secrets that I wanted to put in the book but couldn’t,” Warren said. “My hopes for the project and where I see it going and what I’ve learned from it, telling a lot stories about people who’ve mailed in secrets and whose lives have been touched by this project.”
Though a New York Times article on Post Secret said that it isn’t really a true confessional after all, but more of a piece of collaborative art, Warren doesn’t like to pin a title on the project.
“I don’t think of the project as any one thing. I would think of it more as art,” he said. “Some have been painstakingly assembled with so much care, it means more to the person than just a postcard.”
However, it definitely is more than art. Just last year, artwork from the site was used as the background for the All-American Rejects music video for their hit single “Dirty Little Secret,” in exchange for a donation to the National Hopeline Network, a suicide hotline. Some proceeds from the Post Secret books also go to the same hotline which is a 24-hour toll-free suicide prevention helpline network that routes callers to the nearest community-based crisis center in the U.S
Warren, who is no stranger to Northridge, used to live five blocks from CSUN and fondly recalls playing Robotron in the arcade on campus. Warren’s stepmother, Arlene Warren used to work in the geology department.
As Post Secret continues to grow with secrets and readers, it is the 8th most popular site visited as of Oct. 9 according to http://www.technorati.com. Warren has learned from the project that there are two kinds of secrets: Secrets that we keep from others, and secrets we hide from ourselves. He said he doesn’t understand why this project has found him, but he has just tried to follow its lead to wherever it goes.