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Stacey, You give great life advice! I like how you actually give advice instead of taking a namby-pamby, repeat back what the person said, therapy-like approach. (My parents are therapists and all I can every get out of them is something like, "it sounds like you are feeling confused..." Okay here is my dilemma: I am 23 and have always had fantasies about living in the red American desert by myself with an athletic dog. As a way of realizing this I have been planning on going to grad school in Laramie, or Reno, or some place like that, finding a dog soul mate, and then studying alone in my mobile home. But then I fell crazy in love with a very domestic, bespectacled, dark and handsome 30 year old man with a mortgage and a grown-up job in one place (not the desert). I know if I lost him because of my crazed desire to enact this singular fantasy for 2 years, then that would really suck. But then what if I'm 30 and pregnant, and saying, shoot, I never acted out those favorite dreams of independence! Where has my inner cowboy gone?
Hi Cookie. It sounds like you're freaking out. That’s fine, love freak-outs are normal, but I don’t think your dilemma is actually about trailers and dogs. I think it’s about about the fear of losing the sense that you have, stretching before you, a life of infinite possibilities. Of course you don’t want to lose that! But consider this: you’re not the first person to fall crazy-in-love and then immediately begin contemplating how to hightail it out of there. Love is terrifying; it involves giving things up (like possibilities) and puts you at a terrible risk of being left (which can be avoided by leaving first), and sometimes, if you’re really crazy-in-love, you might let it take some other things away while you aren’t paying attention, like your sense of yourself as an independent entity, a cowboy-girl who has friends, independence, passions, and ideas, who can spend time by herself no matter where she lives.
Here’s some great news: I’ve decided that your quandry isn’t real! Not actually real, like a rock. Because in real life, Laramie and Reno don’t even have red soil, and Laramie is probably too cold for trailer living—so how serious could your dream be? Only vaguely serious. But that’s good! Metaphorical quandries don’t require freezing your ass off in a double-wide for a solution! You may feel stuck between wanting a crazy-love boyfriend and wanting total independence, but guess what? I think you know where I’m going with this: you can have both. The choice between pairing up vs. being a renegade chick might have been real for our mothers or grandmothers but for a young lady of your vintage, it’s all in your head. Crazy in love is great, you should enjoy it, but you don’t have to spend all your time with your boyfriend. You shouldn’t. You know that feeling, that you can’t get up and he has to get up and get you a glass of water; and also that other feeling, that if he leaves the room you’ll die? That’s something to resist. Though fun, it's actually bad because it sucks away at the core of your individual identity. Don’t do too much of that. Get up and go do your thing every day. Be your cowboy--it's an inner state. Get a trailer where you are, and a dog, and use them.
Because honestly, your dream isn’t going to work out now no matter what. It’s not going to be a truly solitary life. If you go to Reno, you’re probably going to call him all the time anyway, think of him, and visit. Anyway, the world is full of wonderful animals, and places are always there, but there’s only one bespectacled man and you have him right now. So just have him.
And Madeline, don’t let his 30 year-oldness impress you—that’s not so old, and I’m sure he’s still totally retarded in many ways. Don’t be surprised if, when you stop having your love vs. independence freak-out, he starts having his own. Most relationships contain a fixed amount of sheer intimacy-terror and if one person drops some, the other picks it up. I’m sort of afraid that if you settle in with him, he’s going to get terrified and dump you. I don’t want that to happen (though then you can go live in your trailer), so I'm going to advise you to be sort of mysterious and French about it. Do it slowly. Keep him guessing. Don't make him curtains yet. Wait. Let him make you curtains first.
You know where there’s red dirt? Moab, Utah. It’s beautiful. There’s a huge animal rescue place in the middle of nowhere near there called Best Friends. I bet you could go there for a few months and volunteer. They probably have trailers; in fact, they might not have anything else.
Hi Stacey, how has your summer been? I've decided to try my hand at writing. So far it's been a lot of fun. Do you have any advice for a beginner?
Hi Tom. My summer has been okay but I've had a lot of pack rats up in my shit, like my car engine and my hot tub filter area--though it just occurred to me that maybe the pack rat is my totem animal. That would fit, as they are very, very cute and very, very destructive.
For you, Tom, as a beginning writer, my advice is to try to write some good dialogue; to get there, look at books you like to figure out what you think good dialogue is. That way you'll have at least two characters and, if you're lucky, a little bit of frisson. You strike me as being sort of simultaneously attracted to surfaces and depths, and since surfaces are easier in dialogue, I'm afraid you'll write dialogue like: A) "What time is it?" B) "I don't know." A) "Shouldn't the pizza be here?" B) "Yeah. It's late. I'm starving!" A) I know. Food is good!" etc. But you can do better!
Have you heard the new Jimmy Cliff record, "Rebirth"? It is really good!
Oh, no no no no. A pillar of my life-strategy has been: avoid all reggae music (though I do really like "A Message To You Rudy"). Anyway, I didn't think Jimmy Cliff was still alive. Is he still alive? Because if he made it while dead, that would interesting to me.
Hey Stacey, I'm just following up too. Your advice was great - I emailed the guy and he said that I was in final-final consideration (again) and (again) he'd let me know by the end of the weekend. That was now 3 weeks ago that he said THAT. He's kind of killing me. I followed up again in the last couple of weeks (twice) and asked if I was still in the running he isn't responding to me. But whatever. I'm going to the beach. Thanks again for the advice.
Aces! Congratulations on your final-final. Maye you will drop me at a note at stacey@staceyrichter dot com when/if it comes out? I'd love to read it.
Hi Stacey, How are you? About a month ago I posted the question about my sex life. You know you're in trouble when you have a post questions about sex to a short story writer. Still. Your response moved me, and your observations made sense. I still haven't volunteered at an elderly home, but that does appeal to me for some reason, and I will do it. And still haven't talked to a single girl. I went to a gay club in Salt Lake City. It was the nearest one, and it was lame. No one was dancing, and everyone banded together, sticking with their friends. I stayed for about five minutes and got the hell out. Awkward. I would've loved to talk to someone there, because some of the guys there looked good. But, if you have any more perils of advice or analysis, I welcome it all.
I'm not sure if I have this wall or mask built around me. Certainly I have difficulties and problems. I know this, because my only close relationships are with my family. If I had to name a single friend, I don't think I could do it. But I'm not anti-social or a hermit. I'm an easy going person, but it's so hard for me to engage with anyone. I don't know what it is. So much of the time I walk around and feel angry, depressed, lonely. Other times I'm ok. Reading helps. I still have family and am very close with them. But that's about it. In one of the recent posts, you mentioned mentoring other writers. I am a writer and am interested. I write poetry, but I also have a strong interest in screenwriting. I'm finishing Twin Study and will be reading My Date with Satan this weekend. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you have had a wonderful July so far. Best, Michael
Hi Michael. I'm glad to hear that my observations made sense! You do need a mentor but I'm not the right one for you. There are a lot of writers out there who can help you, but we've already embarked on a rarer impersonal-personal exchange that relies on a certain kind of anonymity. It's not only for you but for me--I can tell you things here that I could never tell you in real life. Like: you HAVE TO find a way to get some people in your life, to get some sort of peer-familiarity thing going where people accept you as you are (whether they like you or not, and vice versa). It's a matter of life and death. We're social animals and need social contact. Even hermits need people (the tradition in India was to be a hermit in old age, after working and raising a family). You're in danger of getting more depressed, and suicide is a leading cause of death in young men. You need to learn to ask for connection, help, and coaching now. I mean, you are by asking me, but you need to find some real people too.
I'm going to say something I promised myself I would never say here and tell you to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist. You need someone to coach you, to tell you what books to read, and to be on your side. Also, you're depressed and medicine might be something to try. I mean, this has been going on for a long time, right? I'm not saying you need regular psychotherapy--you just need someone who's on your side, who you can say anything to, who isn't in your family. (Maybe they would say something like: it's possible that those boys at the gay bar were clustered together because they felt shy & awkward too, not because they wanted to exclude you). People do this for a living! You should take advantage of it.
The other reason I'm recommending you find a psychology-type-person is that your mention of Salt Lake City alarmed me. If that's you nearest gay bar, then there's a good chance you're living in a place like Provo or Logan, some of the most homogeneous, conservative towns in the U.S. No wonder you can't find people you connect with! I was going to recommend that you find an LGBTQA group or a men's discussion group, but I'm not sure they even have those in Provo. I actually really like the idea of a men's therapy group for you--you could ask those guys what's up with your vibe & how you keep people away. After a few weeks, they'd totally know. And there would be a kind of intimacy without having to make friends right away that might work for you.
I think it must be really hard. I went through a long period of no friends in high school and it was miserable. The best advice I can give is that you have to listen. It helps if you like the other person, but even if you don't, you have to listen to them talk. I sense that you exist inside your own head a lot. People will not want to socialize with you if you drone on about your moods, dislikes, and inner turmoil. You can mention it, but then you have to stop and listen to the other person tell you about their own inner life. Most of the time it's boring! But you were boring too!
And get out of Provo! The LDS is about being an insider and like it or not you're an outsider. I'm sure your family will love you no matter what, but I can't help wondering how much of the coolness you feel is related to the fact that you either aren't Mormon, don't have a Temple Recommend, or have one but have to fake it because you don't believe. You know, a lot of people take that very seriously. The church gives meaning to their life. If you've abandoned the priesthood or whatever, it threatens them. I mean, dude. There are places in the world that are not 95% Mormon.
p.s. despite sounding all anxous below, I actually do think the rewrite was a big improvement - that's why it took me so long.
That's great! So...a year is long?
Hey Stacey, so a while back, I got a rewrite request from a small magazine (one you've been in) that I like and am excited about. About a year later, I went to send my rewrite and the editor told me he didn't work there anymore, but to write to someone else. So I did. That guy wrote me back and said that he remembered the story, and remembered liking it, that it was really good, and was excited about reading the revision and he'd let me know one way or the other after this weekend. He wrote this on a Thursday. That was two and a half weeks ago. I sent a quick email last Thursday asking if he had an update, and I got nothing. I do have a second email address for him. I'm guessing it would be pretty obnoxious to write to him at this other address and ask again though, right? Do I just have to be patient? From Facebook stalking, I know that he was doing final fiction considerations for the next issue on the same day that he wrote me and said that he'd let me know. Is it possible that he and the other editors are dead locked, or waiting to see if someone else drops out of the running? Or do you think he just forgot? Or do you think he's just disappointed in what I sent him and he's a nice guy and he's procrastinating on sending me the rejection because he feels bad about showing enthusiasm before when he didn't know what he was getting into? I told him I was open to editorial feedback. I don't know if that's good or bad. Do I just have to wait or can I poke again?
Hi Bartelby. I'm so glad to hear the magazine is into your work! It's great that they all remembered your story too--that's unusual! I don't know why the editor didn't write you back when he said he would but I do know that that's extremely annoying. I don't really see how you, by politely asking for a reply, could be more annoying than him, by not doing what he said he would do. So yes, by all means, ask again. Ask as often as you want, just ask politely. If you don't mind lying, you could also say another magazine wants to see story, but you told them you were waiting to hear from X.
Also, and I actually think this is the best idea, if possible you could CALL THEM. I know, it's crazy, but there are huge advantages to ancient telephone-voice communication technology. Like, if the editor says they're passing, you could ask why and get some feedback (which might surprise you and be not about your story at all even--like it's a theme issue and you're off the theme); you could ask if there are any theme issues coming up where you might be on theme; you could see if he has any ideas about where else to submit this particular story, and maybe you could even get a good joke out of it. All you do it say: to counteract the bad feeling of being rejected, I need you to tell me your best joke. (This only works if you're rejected).
Also Bartelby, you know, just fuck it. They're going to do what they're going to do. Have fun. It's unlikely that you can really offend them. It's art; it's about making things, even your life if you want. Believe you're great--you probably are! You can send them a joke every day yourself, or your favorite word, or an ongoing game of hangman, or a picture of your rat. There's no wrong way to do anything in art/business/publishing as long as you're not rude.
Hi. Do you do the writer's work shop thing?
Hi Keith. Do I teach at a university, is that what you mean? No, I don't. I will teach privately, which is like a combination of taking piano lessons and going to psychotherapy, but no one has agreed to do this with me for a long time. It is kind of scary and intense (I'm an Aries) and probably works best for more advanced writers with a specific project in mind--and at that stage, a lot of people feel like they don't need a teacher. So maybe I'm more of a really pushy, controlling editor. What's not to love?
I did do the writers workshop things before, if that's what you mean, both taking and teaching them. I have an MFA! Honestly, it's not my favorite form of learning or teaching but I think there's a lot of variation from workshop to workshop.
Have you ever modeled nude for an Art class?
No! Don't they used CG models now? Anyway it sounds so unappealing--difficult and boring and poorly paid.
I am a male who experiences a lot of spontaneous erection. It's ridiculous, My problem is that I model nude for art classes and have difficulty preventing or getting rid of my erection. The whole thinking about something else idea never works for me. I was wondering if you could tell me of a cream or something I could use to prevent an erection or possibly make an erection go away. I tried lots of home remedies but still get an erection anyway. Is there something that numbs for a period of a few hours that I could use? I thought of using some desensitizing creams you can find at adult stores, but didn't bother trying them because I figured they're designed to help you keep your erection, not lose it. It would be very helpful if you could help me out
I say go with it. I'm sure those art students are delighted to have the chance to draw a stiffie for once. It's good for their art! The thing is, Kevin, most people actually don't get the opportunity to just flat-out stare at a real, live, erect penis; usually one is in a position where one is expected to do something to it, with it, or for it. I say chill out, be generous, enjoy being spontaneous, and let them look. And frankly, I'd try to buy a few sketches off those kids if I were you. Someday if, God forbid, you end up too diabetic, cancerous, or depressed to get it up, you're going to be glad to have a record of the good old days.