When Frank Warren, creator of “PostSecret,” started the Web site three years ago, few people thought he would have any success.
“When I told my father I was collecting secrets from strangers for an art project, he didn’t know what to think,” Warren wrote. “‘But, Frank,’ he asked, ‘why are you soliciting secrets from strangers, and why would anyone tell you a real secret?'”
On Oct. 9, 175,000 secrets later, Warren published his fourth book, “A Lifetime of Secrets.”
The book is composed of nearly 400 postcards, each bearing a secret that was never before printed in Warren’s three previous books or posted on his Web site. Unlike the other books, Warren decided to arrange the secrets in chronological order, starting with secrets written by children or about childhood and ending with the secrets of grandparents or fears about old age.
“Stretched over a full lifespan, the secrets expose the meaningful ways we change over time, and the surprising ways we don’t,” he wrote in the introduction.
The majority of the secrets within the pages of “A Lifetime of Secrets” are haunting and all too real, although there is the occasional happy realization or funny secrets.
“Dear PostSecret,” one postcard reads. “The day I turned 11, I waited all day for the letter written in emerald-green ink telling me I had been accepted to Hogwarts. Yours sincerely, a fan.”
Besides being arranged in chronological order, there is no other clear method to their organization. At times, the secrets printed together even seem to directly contrast each other, adding to the power of each postcard.
On one page, two participants wrote about their relationships. One secret reads, “You are the worst thing that ever happened to me . and I miss you so much.” However, the other one says, “When I married my husband I knew he was the luckiest guy in the world . 17 years later, I’ve discovered that I am the lucky one.”
Each part of “A Lifetime of Secrets” is sectioned off from the others by an e-mail message from a reader describing how “PostSecret” has affected his or her life.
“I’ve had a PostSecret card in my bag for weeks,” one e-mail reads. “I kept meaning to send it in but just never seemed to get around to it. So I stuck it to the wall of a public restroom. I had a feeling of relief wash over me – it was wonderful to know the next person to use the bathroom would know my secret, and a tiny part of my burden was gone.”
The previous books in the “PostSecret” series -“PostSecret,” “My Secret” and “The Secret Lives of Men and Women” – were published in November 2005, October 2006 and January 2007, respectively. They were the result of 3,000 self-addressed postcards left by Warren in public places near his home. From the approximately 100 original postcards that were returned bearing a secret, the project grew into four books and a Web site containing secrets from around the world.
The Web site, which is updated with new secrets every Sunday, was recently ranked as the third most popular blog by New York magazine. Warren also received an award from the National Health Association for his work with suicide prevention.
For more information or to send in a secret of your own, visit postsecret.com.