Psst…there is no Secret, says Michael Bourret

I think, at this point, that everyone is familiar with The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It’s a runaway bestseller, Oprah loves it and Boston Legal (the second-best show on television that nobody watches) even poked fun on a recent episode. Someone I know was even told to read The Secret for work. But you know what the real “secret” is? There is no secret. There is no magical way to make your life better. If there were, don’t you think someone would have discovered it by now? Oh, wait! Someone actually discovered “the secret” in the ‘50s, when it was The Power of Positive Thinking. The self-help industry is amazing. Despite the fact that they seemingly haven’t even cured one person – how else could they keep coming up with new ideas about changing your life? – they continue to be some of the biggest money makers around. One of my clients, Dr. Paul Pearsall, discusses these ideas in The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need. As Paul so aptly points out in the book, the industry first convinces us that there is, indeed, something horribly wrong in our lives, and then it offers up a nicely packaged solution that usually comes in several formats, including books, CDs, and now DVDs. You need all three to really make a difference. So is it all just a big scam?

Not necessarily. Plugging another book of ours, Joachim de Posada’s Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet is a terrific book about how delaying gratification makes one a stronger person. And there are certainly good books on overcoming shyness (Goodbye to Shy by Leil Lowndes), sex (anything by Sue Johanson), nutrition (Joy Bauer’s Food Cures), networking (How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne), and the list goes on. These books, however, have a few things in common: they generally only tackle one specialized subject, the author is already an expert in said subject (or the information is based on a study), and the books don’t claim to fix your entire life. In fact, I’d say the authors are rather humble about what they can help you accomplish. They’ll tell you that it’s going to take hard work to make an improvement. They don’t suggest that merely thinking something will make it happen.

I think what we like about The Secret and other “big fix” books is the promise of a better life. The fact is that things aren’t great for most Americans. Our economy is weakening. The poverty rate is increasing. Many of our citizens are without healthcare. We’re stuck in a disastrous situation in Iraq. We can’t trust our elected officials. Corporate crime seems to be at an all-time high. Global warming turns out to be more a current reality than a future threat. We’re warned that another act of terrorism could be around the corner. No wonder we need fixing! But the help we need won’t come from The Secret. It’s not going to happen just ‘cause we wish it so; if it were that easy, wouldn’t it have already happened? It will come from pulling together and working hard for a common goal. It will come when we decide to make a change.

Okay, that was me on my soapbox. What do you writers think? Do you spend all day picturing your manuscript, or do you actually write your books?

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