This morning Lorna Dockstader of Calgary, Alberta wrote, “I can’t help but wonder what your thoughts are regarding The Secret and The Law of Attraction. Do you think we receive what we think about the most?”
Thanks, Lorna. While I’ve always had a pretty positive approach to everything that happens in this life, and I do dream significantly of what I want to happen, I also have a great deal of scepticism about a lot of things. The public penchant for “miracle thinking” seems to ebb and flow, and right now we’re having a bonanza. This has been caused in part by the present volume of lightweight stuff that gets passed around. These days, fame and fortune is often the province of the pathetically glib. The general wealth of the Western world and the prevalence of reckless acquisition have aided the trend. A flood of self-help books fans the flames of foolishness — and these days there are plenty of customers who would like a relatively quick fix.
Our job as artists is to look to the longer term. Just wishing for or strongly focusing on timely success doesn’t always make it happen. There are other factors. Some of them are study, application, practice and character. Simply identifying attraction, in my experience, is not a significant attractor. In our game, what we need to think about is what we do the most. It’s a matter of falling in love with process and seeing process as an end in itself. There is more joy in teaching yourself to draw, for example, or mastering the mysteries of colour, for another, than in concentrated wishful thinking. I have evidence. The happiest, best adjusted, most highly realized creators I know are not those who read and apply “The Secret,” but those who toil daily in a world of study and personal accomplishment.
If there is a secret for the long term, it’s to become a student of the art of your choice. Curiosity is the key. Thus your days become gifts, and every day is another step on an amazing, never-ending road. This road is chock-a-block with pitfalls of frustration that bless a serious pilgrim with the pleasures of analysis, understanding, and mastery. The road itself is what holds our interest and has historical value. Minor gains are the dream of dreams. When better minds prevail, the concept of minor gains may prove to be the real secret.
PS: “The common element that I’ve discovered when studying master painters is that they approach their work as students.” (Stephen Quiller)
Esoterica: The Secret, to its credit, points to visualization as an underused facility. But just as a jailbird might be attracted to the idea of freedom and visualize it regularly, it would take long-term good behaviour or a plan of escape to make it happen. Fact is, we are all imprisoned in institutions of our own making. The wise take pains, study, practice and go to work. This morning Dorothy and I were walking back from the vet. Tim had performed a delicate and brilliant little operation on the inner parts of her ears. Our neighbors were impressed. Tim is attracted to animals, but he wouldn’t have lasted long in this neighborhood if he didn’t know what he was doing.
Just another scam?
by Les Crimp, Parksville, BC, Canada
After 40 years as a sales and marketing person in the food business, I found that there was not a thing better than a good solid day’s work. I was fortunate to have known some of the best executives in the food industry. They all, with very few exceptions, were the ones that were up earliest in the morning and put in a full enjoyable day. These people did not have to “think” about doing something positive… they just did it! It seems that this Secret has just turned out to be another scam on which a lot of people will spend a bunch of money, read the book (well, maybe half of it) put it down and go on doing what they have always done. If they are positive… they are always positive.
(RG note) Thanks, Les. My letter returned a knockout punch to this inbox. While pretty well everyone took my point that professionalism requires working proficiency as well as attraction and visualization, there were many artists who have embraced The Secret or other similar programs and found them valuable. We have here included as many of these thoughtful emails as we felt appropriate. A significant collection of other positive endorsements were printed out (sorry, trees) for my bedtime edification. Thanks to everyone who contributed. You may have noticed we have a new feature near the end of the clickbacks. Live Comments permits anyone to instantaneously post an opinion or further information on any 2007 clickback, without benefit of editors. Go ahead, say it!
Thoughts determine our emotions
by Gaye Adams, Sorrento, BC, Canada
I’ve listened to The Secret a number of times and have friends who are serious advocates. While I don’t believe there is a “cosmic genie” waiting to grant our wishes, I have learned to follow the twelve step advice of “take what you like and leave the rest.” On days that I am experiencing more frustration than success with my painting, rather than focusing my attention on the negative thoughts which expand when given attention, I endeavor to let them go and hold a better picture in my mind, that of paintings turning out well and the subsequent cheques and awards rolling in. Then I get back to work to make sure that happens. I think learning to make that mental shift that lifts immobilization and spurs us onward is invaluable, especially those of us that tend to succumb to negative emotion. It isn’t rocket science to understand that our thoughts determine our emotions, which in turn create the actions that determine our course in this life, so hold the good thoughts… and then get back to work.
Beliefs create destiny
by Jeniece Knutson, Everett, WA, USA
I recently I lost my job due to rotator cuff surgery. This left me in a very dark place. No use of my arm, no health insurance, and no income. I picked up a copy of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book The Power of Intention, which I devoured. This led me to read The Law of Attraction by Ester & Jerry Hicks, and consequently to watch The Secret Movie. I believe there is merit to understanding how our thoughts, words, and beliefs create destiny. I graduated from art school in 1990, but have never been able to pursue my art on the level I desire. Since reading these books, and giving careful thought of what I ‘draw’ to myself, I have experienced a flood of new opportunities, financial gain, and improvement over my health. Several opportunities for making, selling and teaching art have also opened up. I agree with you that this is a passing ‘miracle’ fad, but I wouldn’t discount the power of the concept of “co-creating” in our own lives. I have known many artists that couldn’t see themselves past their depression, health problems and feelings of hopelessness.
Right direction for all creators
by Marilyn Biernot, St. Clair, MI, USA
I believe the power of intention and focus on positive personal connections with the universal spirit is a step in the right direction for all creators. As artists we are aware of creating our own worlds. First in thought and mind, then of physical matter. This secret has been heard and written in many ways… “As a man Thinketh… so shall he be.” In my case The Secret has served me as a reminder to fill my mind and spirit each morning with thankful thoughts and joyful experiences. It has served to create a more energetic self which can create even after a day of teaching art to 150 middle school kids. I believe in affirmations and have followed many other guides in creating my day with positive affirmations. I have also worked with journaling, dream therapy, philosophical musings, and walks in nature to add fuel to my creative spirit. Whatever path people take to get them on track and working with their creative spirit is the right path for them.
Affirmation cards pay off
by Caroline Jobe, BC, Canada
About eight years ago I was following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and she suggested writing out cards starting with the words “it would be really nice if…” and filling in that blank. I did about ten cards and put them away and went on putting energy into my art and music and living my life as best I could. Four years ago we moved into our own home (I had never owned a home before) and I was going through my papers and found the cards. To my surprise I realized that most of them had come to fruition. I said it would be really nice if I had a big bright studio and there I was reading that card in that big bright studio. I had wanted to be in a small singing group for many years and here I am in an a capella group. Needless to say I now know that what I focus on and put energy and passion into will come to be at some point. Some people think The Secret is all about having material possessions but it encompasses all facets of life and those material things are part of our lives.
Anticipation of the first date
by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA
The Secret is a revised version of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale — and numerous other books of that genre. Our work, as artists, is fulfilling because of what we discover about our medium, our talent (or lack of), our knowledge of what it takes to make ‘good art’ and mostly about ourselves. If we were to simply believe the ‘perfect painting’ would appear before us, we’d have to assume once that happened, we’d never need to paint again. What would be beyond perfection? Rarely have I met an artist who is completely satisfied with their creation, just pleased enough to stop trying to make it perfect. Oftentimes people will ask me, “Which of your paintings excites you the most… portrait, still life, landscape, abstract?” My most sincere answer is always, “The one I’ll paint next.” Like a first date, the anticipation leading up to it, makes it such a thrill. As Harry Chapin once said, “It’s got to be the going, not the getting there, that’s good.”
In love with life and joy
by Gentlehawk, Livingston, CA, USA
Your sentence, “It’s a matter of falling in love with process etc… itself,” is almost the real basis of what the whole insight of The Secret is. You just change the word “process” to “life and joy” and what you said is the secret, to me. In other words, if you are first in love with “life and joy,” no matter what you do with life will turn out to be wonderful! Kind of like what Oprah said on her show — she’s been using The Secret for years and she just didn’t know it.
A gift worth sharing
by Robert Cerins, BC, Canada
I have been living the law since birth and I love every moment. I paint and draw daily every where I go. I have manifested over and over anything I wish for. My life story has changed because of The Secret and the opinions of close friends has changed just by knowing me. The self-help books I have read have fueled the flames of insight — not foolishness. My life as an artist has had interesting twists. The pitfalls are not a struggle because of the very fact I get to create my vision. I love this world end every pixel in it. I’m grateful and excited about each day. To me being an artist is a gift worth sharing.
by Ula Einstein, New York, NY, USA
While I believe there is a law of attraction, it is not by far the only law of the universe. That people who leave out many elements of the laws of the universe, combined with “there is no formula,” I think is quite lame and thin and shallow. As you say, you have to learn to love the process. It is all we have along with our infinite imaginations and possibilities in the universe. There is no quick fix… and The Secret — so exploding in a society that wants one way to get things done in a quick fix — really becomes another way to make us wonder, “What Are We Then Not Doing To Get What We Want?” The gift is to “Know Thyself” …through relentless curiosity.
Book changed life
by David Reeves, Quispamsis, NB, Canada
I recently picked up a short book that I could not put down. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, has already changed my life. It came to me at a time when I have been contemplating a major change in the direction I have been taking and has given me the courage to pursue new goals. It is actually a simple but elegant little story about a boy searching for his purpose in life along with the sacrifices that are necessary to realize his true goals – something the translator of the book has called his “Personal Legend.” I would call it more like his true purpose in life. It certainly does not portray this process as wishful thinking, as The Secret implies, but instead it emphasizes that the journey to realize your goals is the final reward.
More value in joy and abundance
by Theresa Bayer, Austin, TX, USA
The movie The Secret is a very broad overview of The Law of Attraction. For an in-depth understanding, please investigate books of Abraham/Hicks. The teachings of Abraham/Hicks are changing my whole approach to making art. I am letting go of old limiting beliefs and attitudes, and am reinventing myself as an artist. Artists feel pressure from many outside influences, and many in their struggling mindset make art based on the idea of scarcity. To make art based on the idea of joy and abundance is radically freeing. To allow myself to say, “Here’s what I truly desire” and to put my own intentions into what I make is downright thrilling. Instead of the old “doing what sells” and suffering to produce it, I can sow the intent of “I want to make something that is inspired, that pleases me, that is excellent art, and that appeals to others.” It changes everything about the process of making art, even selection and use of materials.
Of course I still practice, and I still take classes, and until my dying day I will approach art as a student. There is so much to learn. So I continue to follow the old tried and true in art. But when I combine all that with Law of Attraction, the results are wonderful indeed.
Foolishness in art writing
by Douglas H Teller, Sarasota, FL, USA
This morning I did my usual coffee and reading of the New York Times Arts pages. Then came to the studio and firstly read my e-mail including your letter. You could not have been more to the point today. “These days, fame and fortune is often the province of the pathetically glib.” Your quote immediately struck me as being so to the point of my earlier reading. Michael Kimmelman’s lead article was about the Exhibition at the Whitney on Lincoln Kirstein and his “group” (Cadmus, Tchellichev, Tooker, LaChaise, French etc.) which he totally dismissed as being inconsequential, and hardly worth noting. He spent a very long article on his trivial tirade. A few pages later in another review he waxes euphorically about a group of abstractionists from the forties and fifties. These artists, and in no way am I belittling their contributions to the movement of which they were a part, but they are no more important than artists of Kirstein’s group in the overall history of American contributions to art. “Pathetically glib” applies itself today to so many who write about art. I taught fine arts in a university for 35 years and we had a large art history department. I often said that many art historians, critics and other art pontificators would never write some of the foolishness that they do if they had ever picked up a brush or a chisel.
Look for yourself
by Margaret Burdick
The material in The Secret is not new. I’ve been exposed to it many times but it’s always good and even necessary to hear it again and again. Like art basics. Pick up Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards again or read a quote from an old master. Old truths repeated or presented in a new format, revisited or explored anew can be invaluable. Sometime actually take a look at The Secret. You’ll find it’s full of old chestnuts and new ways of looking at them. You’ll see that, as often happens, what people say about something is based on a brief glimpse and so misses the point. These days, everything must be described in one sound bite. The result can be a completely inaccurate picture — you have to look for yourself.
Thoughts regenerate focus
by Jennifer Young, Richmond, VA, USA
In the days after The Secret hit the New York Times Bestseller list, the talking heads flooded the airwaves citing experts who said it was dangerous, misleading, and promoted “magical thinking.” Here in America we are inundated with “news” that peddles fear, anxiety, and dread on a daily basis. That, to me, is far more dangerous than something that encourages you to visualize and pay attention to how you use your thoughts.
There are so many talented artists out there who battle with feelings of insecurity, and lack motivation to the point where they can literally sit on the sofa or stare at an empty canvas for weeks. I know because I have been there and have known many, many other artists who have struggled with the same problem at some point in their lives. The thing that has helped me the most at the time of my own struggle was learning about the power of my thoughts and how I was choosing to use my own mind. It was changing my thoughts and what I focused on that enabled me to pick up my brushes again.
Focusing 100% on painting
by Vernita Bridges-Hoyt, Spring, TX, USA
The Secret seems to be “the rage” these days. When I and my artist peer group have practiced The Secret and The Law of Attraction, we’ve noticed the Law of Physics pops in with “opposites attract” and we seem to get negatives and challenges to what we thought. I’ve decided to quit thinking and get busy doing. I’m creating artworks almost daily although not to the point yet where I can let my day job go and focus 100% on painting. To have an assistant taking care of the administrative details while I paint is a worthwhile dream, I think. Perhaps I can attract that if I think smart, plan smart, and get busy doing.
Working the dream
by Roger Asselin, St. Petersburg, FL, USA
Without dreams the artist would perish. Without dreams a writer could not write or sell a book. Dreams are the initial catalysts which launch us into a position of faith that tells us we can accomplish that which is not already done. The works of others gone before us help keep our dreams alive. That includes the how-to books. For me dreams also become a challenge… (If he can do it, so can I). That’s where the books come in with their wealth of shared knowledge that continue to feed my soul. I have just celebrated my 1st anniversary as an artist, spent $2000 on books and supplies and have learned quickly that unless the brush meets the canvas on a daily basis, dreams quickly fade as grass in the sun. The key of knowledge is in the application of what you have learned. Anything less makes you an armchair artist. It not only hinders you, but those that also want to enter into that same dream. Your knowledge and your work applied may be that which launches someone else into the accomplishment of their dream.
The work of a lifetime
by Dave Edwards, Blyth, Northumberland, England
At last — someone with the guts to offer a little down-to-earth old-fashioned advice. While I do agree that our mental attitude has an awful lot to do with how successful we become, I have found by painful experience that merely wishing for something and visualizing it does not make it appear. I have asked a lot of kind artists for advice on how to paint (and am still asking) and the most useful pieces of advice I have received all involve hard work. I do believe that we are often helped upon our way, by being “in the right place at the right time” but first of all we have to have a plan of action and the stickability to see it through. All famous actors have to rehearse their parts to become word-perfect and in much the same way artists have to practice their techniques to become proficient. James McNeill Whistler attributed his prominence to “the work of a lifetime” and not to any book or cult offering the “secret” of success.
Struggle is true essential in life
by Vic Taylor, UK
Your letter is a perfect counter to the silliness of The Secret and a reminder of the joy of struggle. So many people today are beguiled by advertising in its many forms and propaganda for a hedonistic life style. Greed and selfishness are advocated as desirable ends in themselves. It influences every part of daily life and leads to so much unhappiness. The reality of life as a struggle to learn and to develop oneself and one’s relationships and community is subverted by this constant pressure to acquire and to consume. Previous generations knew that life was a struggle for existence but today we take that for granted. Pleasure seeking has overtaken service and commitment as a priority for so many people.
Small steps of KMCC program
by Jill Badonsky, San Diego, CA, USA
Labor and hard work are paramount to creative success so we are skeptical of quick fixes like The Secret, however, there are some parts of The Secret that teach us to be more creative and we never want to rule out the occasional miracle. First of all the entire principle of The Secret is based on creating our reality by the thoughts we think. (that’s pretty creative. Creativity within this realm is also made possible by changing our thoughts to more positive ones- ousting the doubts and replacing them with confidence- confidence is vital to the creative process but developing it needs to be done over time- most often it is not a quick fix.
Within the ten tools of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching, at least half of those tools involve in one way or another gradually changing our thoughts to ones of confidence and belief that then motivate actions that serve our higher intentions. Unfortunately, programs that do not explain that changing habits of thought takes time, do a disservice to their participants. We have a tendency, especially in this culture, to give up too soon on endeavors, to expect too much too quickly and when results do not happen fast, to just avoid the new direction altogether. How many of you are still incorporating practices of The Secret everyday?
The small steps of the KMCC program replace habits not only of behavior but also of thought and emotion. Many of us are addicted to rationalizations, feelings of not succeeding, drama, conflict, complex doing things the hard way, feeling undeserving, avoidance, denial, denial of denial, withdrawal, self-sabotage. These are addictions of thought and emotion and they do not change with the reading of a book or the viewing of a DVD. These habits change by replacing old thoughts and feelings with new ones with as little as 15 – 30 seconds of practice at a time over a period of time.
The enthusiasm about The Secret can lift us out of old habits of thoughts temporarily but in many cases that enthusiasm eventually goes away and the habits that do not serve us return. Practicing new habits a little at a time over a longer period will result in new more preferred habits REPLACING old unserving ones. And “little at a time” will seem ridiculously small but this is to retrain the mind and create a foundation of neural pathways that then make staying with a program comfortable, easy and, in fact, desirable rather than a lot of effort. One thing that we creative people can take from The Secret is its emphasis on positive thinking and loving ourselves — factors that do closely affect being able to create the reality we want. Talented people who do not believe in themselves can fall by the wayside whereas less talented people with audacity and belief can go far. Sometimes it is the artists’ belief in themselves that audiences are attracted to, even beyond the talent. People want to be around that belief and purchase products from the person expressing self-confidence that they can acquire some of that belief themselves. As creative people we can use principles of The Secret to believe more in ourselves — creative confidence is vital to staying in a realm where fears, doubts, and narrow margins make up the territory.
The secret can’t hurt
by Bev Barrett, Cape Town, South Africa
I was recently introduced to The Secret and I found the presentation to be very motivational. I absolutely agree with your thoughts of “study, application, practice and character” as being the tools with which to achieve your goals, however, without the right mind-set this doesn’t happen.
Every bit of information on the The Secret is absolutely common sense and anyone with half a brain cell knows it all, however I also believe that there is a mind-set of limitations taught to the majority of us as small children. Negative and inane platitudes are handed down in a “spaced repetition” method generation after generation that pre-programmes most of us as to what we can expect from ourselves. Your box is generally given to you in childhood and only the truly brave and fortunate have parents and teachers who teach you to think outside of the box. Mostly we are conditioned to stay within the lines of the usual and are penalized for being different to the norm. The secret reminded me NOT to accept ANY form of negativity and to not compromise in terms of what I can dare to dream. Visualization is a proven means of kick starting one’s sub-conscious into “study, application, practice and character.”
Sadly we ARE a people all wanting instant gratification without too much effort, even mental effort. While I can see where your thoughts are coming from, and agree that they have a share of the validity, the subconscious is more powerful than any other factor in leading the way we walk. The Secret teaches us to re-programme the subconscious. Powerful men of war/ sports/ religion/ politics are all guilty of tapping into men’s subconscious to achieve their goals. If you can channel the brain waves, the body will follow. Brain washing, de-briefing and aggressive visualization in sports arenas are used daily worldwide with spectacular results. If the whole secret is a crock of blarney, it certainly cannot hurt. Anything that underlines “Think positive and outside the box” is not a waste of time. Mother Theresa hit the nail on the head when she said, “Do not invite me to an anti-war campaign, but count me in if you organize a peace rally!” It’s all a matter of attitude, which The Secret encapsulates succinctly and effectively. My vote is an AYE.
To visualize or not
by Sam Liberman, Sacramento, CA, USA
I have discovered that I am decidedly not a visualizer. I may think ahead about what I will do or say in a future situation, but I simply don’t try to visualize it. It seemed odd to me that a visual artist should not care about visualizing, and considered that I might be in the wrong profession. I learned through conversations and reading that some of us do visualize and some of us don’t. It doesn’t seem to make much difference. I would find it restricting to have a clear picture of the painting in my head before I started to paint. What would be the point of doing the painting? I have an idea or feeling about the subject that I could make it into a painting, and I go from there. Sometimes I find out what my idea was and sometimes not, but the finished painting is the only vision. Other artists tell me that they pretty much know what it is going to look like before they start, and they measure success somewhat by how close the work comes to the vision. There seems to be plenty of room for both ways of operating.
Use of life drawing
by Michael Mayer, Hong Kong
I am curious to know your thoughts about the merits of life drawing. Do you think it is invaluable to the progress of a landscape painter? Is it more important, or as important, as practicing, say, creating atmospheric perspective, drawing a fir tree a thousand times, or reflections on water? If you could practice only one discipline in order to improve your drawing skills, would it be life drawing?
(RG note) Thanks, Michael. The most important thing artists must do is to plan an itinerary and follow it. This itinerary needs to be self-generated and self-anointed. If that itinerary includes learning form, volume, lighting, drawing, translucency and subtle colour, there is no more readily available education than the human figure. Fast or slow, you grow. Remember that Picasso found landscapes in figures, and figures in landscapes.
Enjoy the past comments below for The real secret…
mixed media painting
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Beth Deuble of San Diego, CA, USA who wrote, “I have also written on this subject. I also liked Stuart Davis’s critical write up on his blog,The Secret: The Spirituality of Narcissism.”
And also Vanessa Smith of Spain who wrote, “I coincidentally was sent “The Secret” yesterday just before your letter about it and deleted it immediately. Surely the key is exactly the opposite, to FREE ourselves of our attachment to such objects as big cars and glamorous houses. There is a deep and profound happiness in evolving your art which you never tire of.”
And also Joseph Guggino who wrote, “Once, in any pursuit, you get to a place where you think you have a certain ‘understanding’ you’ve ‘leveled’ off, you’ve hit a plateau. The only way to keep learning, so that we can keep growing, is to always approach the subject at hand as a student.”
And also Mary K of Ft Lauderdale, FL, USA who wrote, “Why on earth do people delude themselves into believing that all it takes is the desire to achieve and the envisioning of that desire to make it happen? Magic will make you a better painter, writer, scientist? Magical Thinking is like putting your intellect on Novocain. Magic is what fools tie their kite to in hopes they’ll catch that lift up to the heights they desire in their work. Hard work, focus and study are the ways to achieve goals. Add joy, curiosity, perseverance, and more work… there’s the magic.”
And also Harriet Myrick of Llano, TX, USA who wrote, “Dream-doing is my creed. I have dreamed so many wonderful things and then I put in motion the action of working toward the dream. I have a list of successes and, next to that, projects from dreams.”
And also Bettina Makley of Wheeling, WV, USA who wrote, “To a life that is on track, ‘miracle thinking’ may seem fanciful, but to a life that is in despair, it can be life-saving. I have consciously practiced creative visualization for more than fifteen years. I have gone from a life of poverty and fear to a life of abundance, clarity, music, art, love and joy. This doesn’t mean there are no more challenges, it only means I have real help in dealing with them.”
And also Mike Lauchlan of Calgary, Alberta who wrote, “For my pop-psychology buck, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is a much better read (acceptance, enjoyment, enthusiasm).”