On the door to my studio is a list; 28 Secrets to Happiness. I found this photo-copied list while sorting through a pile of papers, (a chore on my to-do list) and thinking it might be helpful to both me and my family, posted it for all to see. I like lists, especially ones that promise happiness and/or a well-lived, no-regrets, life. (I’m sure you’ve seen that one by the Dahli Lama that circles the internet like Halley’s comet.) Wouldn’t it be nice if finding happiness was as simple as checking things off a list? Of the 28 Secrets I can check off the following:
1. Live beneath your means and within your seams. Check.
2. Return everything you borrow. Check.
20. Reread a favorite book. Check.
23. Understand and accept that life isn’t always fair. Check.
I have yet to check off the remaining 24 and doubt I’ll ever be able to check off #14 (Don’t argue) and #25 (Know when to keep your mouth shut).
Next to my computer I have a pad of paper that chronicals my personal to-do list. I enjoy looking back through the pages and patting myself on the back for all I’ve accomplished. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly wonderful about myself, which is in direct contradiction to #22 (Be humble) I add chores I’ve already completed to the list, just so I can then immediately check them off. It’s a little sick, but so satisfying. In addition I have a list of movies I want to see, CD’s I want to buy, books I want to read. I save the Christmas lists written by my children. I once had a small book devoted exclusively to grocery lists. Heaven help me, I just made a list of lists.
I came across an interesting list while in San Francisco last month. At the de Young museum was an exhibit entitled Crown Point Press, The Art of Etching. The exhibit included a wide range of etching techniques from a variety of artists including Chuck Close, Wayne Thiebaud and Laura Owens. The pieces were organized around thirteen creative prinicples created by Crown Point founding director Katha Brown. While the etchings were beautiful and interesting what I found most intriging were the thirteen creative principles…Cultivate sensuality…Use a lot of time…Get into the flow…Have an idea…Don’t know what you want…Know what you don’t want…Stick your neck out…Use every tool…Use every source…Become skillful…Take yourself lightly…Go into the ether…Own it. She calls these principles “magical secrets” and writes about them in her new book, Magical Secrets about Thinking Creatively: The Art of Etching and the Truth of Life. Can you imagine? A to-do list that provides a magical path to more creative thinking AND the truth of life! Why that’s two things to check off at once! I simply must get my hands on this book!

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