When Wayne and Tamara Mitchell began their column in 1999, it was with the intent of answering each letter in a way that gives the reader deeper understanding. As they have often said, they intend to help people become students of relationships, so they can answer their own questions.
With a column that was limited to 650 words, Wayne and Tamara couldn’t spare the words for ‘Dear Wayne and Tamara’ or ‘Sincerely Yours’, or ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.
This allowed for more from the letter writer and more for the advice.
Reading each letter is like sticking your hand into a box of unknown contents. When you confront the letter writer’s problem, you learn what the box contains, and consider how you might deal with it.
That is what advice is all about—turning the advice over in your mind and deciding if it makes sense to you. You decide if it touches you or not. You decide if it really offers help, or if it is just the same old thing with no understanding behind it.
That is how you determine the quality of the advice giver.
Send your Question to: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com
The name of the letter writer is always changed, and usually there is no mention of city, state, or country. Trouble is the same everywhere. The letters read as if they came from your next-door neighbor, and they might have. Or they might have come from Australia, South Africa, or Spain.
Q I am an advice columnist myself, a Dutch one from Holland. I read your column online because I appreciate your work, your tone and style. My question is how do you get your quotes from world literature?
I mean, the questions from your correspondents are pretty much straightforward. Mostly I agree with your advice, but you quite often have allusions to Shakespeare or Hemingway or other writers, allusions which corroborate your point in a wonderful, illuminating way.
How come you have these citations at hand so easily? Do you go through books when answering questions? Do you have citation books or indexes? Or just an excellent memory?
A Beatrijs, a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti talks about a pickpocket who looks at a saint and sees nothing but pockets. We write about relationships because we see the world as nothing but relationships.
When we look at a letter, our experience and these allusions just pop out. In the case of your letter, it was a line from a poem one of us read decades ago.
We don’t have perfect memories either. Most of us know much more than we think we know. Part of finding the answer to our problems involves letting what we know out. Part of finding the answer to our problems involves reading each situation with the sum total of our life experience.
Wayne & Tamara
If you would like to carry the column, contact Lisa at: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com and she will be happy to provide information and take care of necessary arrangements.
Invade – to enter as if to take possession, to intrude upon.