Arts

Founder of PostSecret.com opens up to the Fulcrum

Jane Lytvynenko | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Jane Lytvynenko

I pee in the shower. It turns out Frank Warren, founder of the PostSecret project, does too. PostSecret is an ongoing initiative that asks people around the world to write their deepest, darkest secrets on a postcard and mail it to Warren to be displayed on the website Postsecret.com. “I pee in the shower” is the most common secret Warren gets.
On Sept. 7, Warren sat down with the Fulcrum in his light purple dressing room beneath the Alumni Auditorium to talk about PostSecret. Just 20 minutes before he presented University of Ottawa students with eight years’ worth of stories and secrets, Warren answered our questions between bites of oversized strawberries and dark chocolate.

The Fulcrum: How have your presentations evolved throughout the years?
Frank Warren: The most important change has been me finding the right way to facilitate, with the audience, the conversation they want to have. I’m always the most interested in the end, where the students take the microphones and share their secrets, their stories, and I think you’ll find the audience members are less interested in what I have to say and more interested in the truths they hear from the audience. I feel like more and more my job is just to facilitate that conversation.

Do you share your own secrets?
I definitely feel like if I’m going to ask people to share their secrets, I should share some of my own. I think that’s the proper thing to do.

What’s your favourite secret?
A favourite secret… It might be one that I never saw. I only found out about it through an email from a woman in Texas, who said, “I visited the PostSecret website and I was really inspired by what I saw, so I made a postcard. But it made me feel sick so I tore the postcard up in half and decided I will no longer be the person who carries that secret in her life.”
I love the story because it shows the transformational power secrets have—how sometimes just the act of sharing a secret can change who we are.

Is that what keeps this job interesting after all these years, the power of secrets?
Well, a lot of things keep it interesting. Dark chocolate keeps it interesting, coming to Ottawa keeps it interesting. But in some ways it feels like a calling. One of the most important things you can do on this planet is give a voice to those people who are unheard.

Your project has made a difference in the lives of many people; reading PostSecret can be an eye-opening experience. How does it feel to be so important to so many?
I’m very gratified by it—it feels very meaningful to me. When I was younger, I needed the help, I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone, I needed to know that other people share my secrets too. As an adult, now it’s twice as powerful, knowing that I’m kind of being there for the person I used to be.

What would you say to someone who wants to share a secret but can’t?
I think that we all have secrets to share and I think beneath every secret is a deeper secret. I think PostSecret is one option that people use to share a secret, but there are a thousand others. You can tell a parent or a friend, a priest or a psychiatrist. You can write it on a postcard and mail it to me, or write it on a letter and then burn it. Sometimes the most important person to share a secret with is yourself.