Spirituality, Creative Visualization, The Secret, and why used toilet paper always smells like shit.

Dear James Franco:

I punched in “James Franco News” on Google. It’s been a while since I last looked.  It seems like you’re doing that patented James-Franco-quantum-mechanical-embodiment act again: you’re manifesting wave/particle duality, a superposition of states, and achieving action at a distance. According to several websites, you’re currently working on the following films, whether as an actor, producer, director, or all three: The Letter, Black Dog/Red Dog, Child of God, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers, The End of the World, and True Story. You’re preparing to direct a version of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and in the process of writing an adaptation of Stephen Elliot’s Adderall Diaries. You’re still a PhD candidate at Yale, and you’re teaching at NYU this fall. I’m tempted to riff on the quantum theory of James Franco, but that’s old news. Instead, I want to bring up an interesting article one of your professors wrote. It should lay to rest all the propaganda about how academia—as well as the publishing industry—has cut you slack. You’ve read it, of course, but your haters haven’t. So here’s the link:   http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/12/james_franco_at_yale_franco_s_professor_speaks_.html

The fact is you work your ass off. Franco-bashers don’t want to acknowledge that because they’d lose all grounds for justifying their creative ineptitude and laziness. We’d rather believe that you scribble down some dumb crap, hand it over to Amy Hempel and Gary Shteyngart so they can “edit” (rewrite) it, and your agent gets it placed in Ploughshares. The truth is far more frightening: you work hard.

There are thousands of adults spending between $50 and $100 a day to earn their MFAs in creative writing (This is my liberal guess, which I’ve arrived at by dividing the average cost of tuition by 730—two years, then deducting about 20% to account for the select students who receive some form of graduate assistance, then factoring in the cost of rent, transportation, food, and so on. I suck at math, so maybe someone else can offer a more objective, fool-proof estimate). Even if someone drops $15 dollars a day to get an MFA, that’s a lot of money. Now, how much time does the average student at a two-year MFA program spend at the bar? Surfing channels? Bitching about not having time to write? Any amount of time over five hours would constitute a bad investment. I don’t know how many bad investors are among us, but I imagine about 20% of MFA candidates, right now, are doing something other than reading or writing. It’s 7:30 on a Monday night. Happy hour is coming to an end, but they’ll remain at the bar, staring into their PBRs and thinking, “Man, if only I could win the fucking Glimmer Train Short Fiction Award, just once, I’d be well on my way.” And tomorrow, they’ll probably continue in their $50 a day pursuit of not writing.

Along comes James Franco. He says, “Damn it! I want to become a writer.” He’s not sitting at a bar. He’s not watching a ceaseless procession of sitcoms. He’s reading and writing. That pissed us off.

You’re not a superhuman. You’re not taking shortcuts. Your teachers aren’t giving you favors. For you, intention, ambition, and action are all one thing. For you, wanting to do something is doing it. People are scared of that, James.

One of these days, I’m going to write a pop-spirituality/psychology/self-help book. It’s going to be called The Other Fucking Secret. It will contain ancient, esoteric knowledge about how to get everything you want. The premise might sound similar to a book called The Secret, which deluded hundreds of thousands of people—including me—into believing that if you sit around and think deeply about what you want most in life, it’ll “manifest.” Ashamedly, I was ape shit about The Secret, and all its offshoots.

The premise:

1)      Thought is energy.

2)      According to Einstein’s E = mc2, matter and energy are interchangeable. Thought is “low vibration” energy and matter is condensed and solid “high vibration” energy.

3)      Like attracts like.

4)      If you think about a new car, the low, intentional energy of your thoughts attracts the high energy of the substance: the car.

5)      In order to “manifest,” you must practice creative visualization. You sit somewhere for a long time and compose mental pictures of what you want, in detail. If you do it often enough, and “charge” your intentions with enough positive energy (belief), the universe will respond by sending your object(s) of your desire your way.

6)      Repeating affirmations is essential: it neutralizes doubt. Pop guru Wayne Dyer has his congregants repeat “It’s on its way!” “It” could mean anything—a check, a new job, a prize, a pizza, a blowjob.

For about two years, I tried this shit. I even believed it. Here’s the thing:

1)      The science is flawed, based on speculations by new age gurus rather than actual scientists (but what do scientists know? They’re so closed minded, aren’t they?).

2)      This kind of theology reinforces self-centeredness and materialism. It uses mysticism to obfuscate what’s essentially an admonishment of real work. Furthermore, it purports that happiness is getting what you want.

3)      Books, movies, and instructional videos that utilize this philosophy are often pitched to the most desperate and naive. The Secret offers a quick fix for financial difficulties, insecurities, and depression.

It didn’t work for me. I’m sure a devout follower of The Secret will point out that my critical mind got in the way of the miracle. I won’t dismiss the possibility, but I must mention this: my miracles came after I threw The Secret in the trash.

So what’s the solution? What’s The Other Fucking Secret? It’s simple, and it’s based on the James Franco model of success. I’ve broken it down into several steps:

1)      Toss the yoga mat out the window. Denounce Creative Visualization.

2)      Instead of spending your time meditating, use that time to actually “do.”

3)      Turn off the TV. You’re only allowed to watch it when you’ve completed whatever project you’re supposed to be working on.

4)      Only go out drinking once a week. If you catch yourself staring into your beer and thinking about how you wish you could do so-and-so, pay your bill, get the fuck out of the bar, go home, and do so-and-so.

5)      If you catch yourself saying, “I wish I had the time to _____,” do yourself a favor and second guess your assertion. Remind yourself that James Franco can work on six films at a time, while getting a PhD, while teaching, while reading and writing. Turn your complaint into a truthful self-evaluation. Make an affirmation out of it: “My ability to manage time sucks major fucking ass, and I’m gonna change that.”

6)      Instead of repeating Wayne Dyer’s mantra, “It’s on its way,” and dreaming about that imaginary paycheck en-route to your mailbox, say, “I’m on my way toward it.”

Nobody will buy it because it involves work. Hell, I remember when I first discovered The Secret. I was so thrilled to find out that I didn’t need to do a fucking thing in order to achieve my goals. I just needed to think about them and remain positive. How comforting! How pretty! How American!

OK. My rant is finished. In other news, I’ve written my short, bullshit memoir about what my life would have been like had you chosen to attend graduate school at the University of Cincinnati. I’ve re-imagined everything that happened over the last two years, and put you in the center. Now, it’s a matter of taking all the crap I scribbled in a notebook and typing it out. That might take forever. It’s on its way.  

In the coming days, I want to blog about me… my forthcoming novella, Wally, which will be published by Burrow Press in October, and my winning of the 2012 Playboy College Fiction contest. I want to brag. Neither accomplishment came as a result of intense meditation, or, as some have suggested, dumb luck. I did the Franco. That’s what happened. 

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About Letters to James Franco

My name is Don Peteroy. I'm a PhD. candidate at University of Cincinnati. My major has a long name, so try to say it in one breath: "English and Comparative Literature with a Creative Dissertation." I spent the majority of my adult years as a social worker. I decided it's pointless to help people, so I've devoted the rest of my life to reading and writing. Here's all my publications and works in progress: My novella, "Wally," published by Burrow Press, in the fall of 2012. Novella: "A World Without Owls" Unpublished. Novel: "My Helicopter Heart" Unpublished. A failed playwright stalks Kirsten Dunst during the Christian apocalypse. My short story, "The Circuit Builders" is the winner of the 2012 Playboy College Fiction contest, and will appeared in the October 2012 issue. Here's are more published and forthcoming short stories: "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye": Arcadia Magazine 7, 2014. "Kurt Vonnegut Didn't Like Me" Online Sundries, 2/14 http://www.arcadiamagazine.org/4/post/2014/02/kurt-vonnegut-didnt-like-me.html "Because I Want to Know You" forthcoming reprint in Short Story America "A Hole Without A Rim," forthcoming in the Florida Review "Keeping it for Good," The Heartland Review. Forthcoming. “A Penny In A Pill Bottle,” Dislocate, Winter 2012. “Because I Want to Know You” Yemessee, 19.2, 2002. “The Sluggers” Santa Carla Review. Spring 2012. “Maps and Legends” Chattahoochee Review. Spring 2012. “Melinda, Listen to Me” Permafrost, vol. 33, 2011. “Rondo” Licking River Review, Fall 2011. “The Ugly Marriage Counselor” Eleven Eleven, vol.11, 2011. “The Healing Frequency” Newport Review, Summer 2011. “His Name Equals His Name” The Ultimate Writer Magazine, Summer 2011. “This Is How I Will Hold You” The Westchester Review, vol. 5, 2011. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” Worcester Review, vol. 31.1, 2011. “Too Much Anthropology” Cream City Review, vol. 34.2, 2011. “There Are No Fragments” Ellipsis, vol. 46, 2010. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Farallon Review, vol.3, 2010 “One Day, God Will Kill Everyone” Oyez Review, vol. 37, 2010. “When Hawks Make Love” The Susquehanna Review, Fall 2009. “Goddess Corpse” The Maynard, Fall 2009. “Misconceptions About the Nature of Blood” CRIT Journal, Summer 2009. “Go Up” The Cynic, Fall 2009. “The Misuse of Old British Words” Two Hawks Quarterly, Spring 2009. “Dead or Unlisted” The Rejected Quarterly, Spring 2003. “Sleep Log” The Timber Creek Review, Spring 2002. There are other stories out there, somewhere, but I've lost track. Awards: “From One Object to Another.” Finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Award, 2009. “His Name Equals His Name” Finalist for the Gulf Coast Donald Barthelme Award, 2009. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. "A World Without Owls." Finalist, Gold Line Press Chapbook Contest, 2011. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Sacramento Stories on Stage Series in California, June 2011. "The Circuit Builders" winner of the Playboy College Fiction Award 2012. "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye" nominated for a Pushcart Award.

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