That voodoo that I do? Just don’t.

Los Angeles Times - - HOME & DESIGN - CHRIS ERSK­INE chris.ersk­ine@la­times.com Twit­ter: @er­sk­ine­times

I re­mind my edi­tor that I have al­most 2,000 more Twit­ter fol­low­ers than Wil­liam Faulkner ever did and am equally ahead of Dick­ens and Shake­speare when it comes to Face­book. Posthu­mously, which is al­ways the way most writ­ers are ever ap­pre­ci­ated, I hope that there’s sort of a re­vi­sion­ist con­sen­sus: “That man sure could so­cial me­dia!”

More and more, I use nouns as verbs and verbs as tooth­picks. I’d use more gerunds but am never com­pletely sure what a gerund is. Sort of va­grant verb, per­haps? An ac­tion word with a sassy suf­fix?

In grade school, the only kids who could di­a­gram a sen­tence were the same ones who were good at math and couldn’t write a lick. I think writ­ing is like com­edy or kiss­ing; you can’t dis­sect it too much.

Sim­i­larly, it’s a con­sen­sus among those who never made it into re­ally great schools that, for the most part, the Yale kids can’t write and the Har­vard grads are even worse. My buddy Mehlman, who went to Mary­land and can write cir­cles around cir­cles, is the best pro­po­nent of this.

Sure, Fitzger­ald at­tended Prince­ton and Updike grad­u­ated summa cum laude from Har­vard. All I can think is how much bet­ter they would’ve been if they’d at­tended South­west Mis­souri State.

They could’ve maybe had a ca­reer.

So, as teens and twen­tysome­things reach out for ca­reer ad­vice, I al­ways tell them not to be­come writ­ers. Just don’t. Your suc­cess hinges on anti-achieve­ment, cheek­i­ness and a ré­sumé of frus­tra­tion. Gen­er­ally, writ­ing is too much fun and pro­vides far too lit­tle money. Sud­denly, you’ll find you’ve hooked up to a voodoo you’ll never fully fathom.

No, kids, don’t be­come writ­ers. It’s a snide pro­fes­sion, worse maybe than law or medicine. You’ll mostly work from home, since no place be­sides tav­erns and jails will have you.

And just when you put the dis­trac­tions of home and fam­ily aside and fi­nally find your­self “in the zone,” the wash­ing ma­chine hits “FI­NAL SPIN” and the en­tire house be­gins to quiver and shake. It’s as if “The Twi­light Zone” mar­ried Dr. Seuss.

In our case, even the mail­box at the end of the drive­way trem­bles. Lit­tle pieces of mor­tar crum­ble loose from the chim­ney and roll down to clog the gut­ters. The bolts that snug the foun­da­tion to the floor joists twist free.

There’s an un­set­tling mes­sage/metaphor there: “Write faster, make more money, so you can fix this silly, stupid, too-small house, gasp­ing for its fi­nal breath.”

But writ­ing isn’t re­ally about money, or hous­ing or pay­ing the gar­dener. If you’re a writer, you prob­a­bly will never make enough to af­ford a gar­dener. If you’re a writer, your gar­dener prob­a­bly brings home more than you do.

What is writ­ing about then, Mr. Ersk­ine?

Well, dear stu­dent, writ­ing is about re­tain­ing what­ever san­ity you have left by putting down your semi-thoughts, neu­roses and im­pulses in some sort of de­scend­ing or­der. It’s like fill­ing your own pre­scrip­tion. Yet it also needs a be­gin­ning, mid­dle and end. And it re­quires enor­mous hon­esty, in a world more com­fort­able with greed and false fronts.

The way God cre­ates snowflakes, that’s the way you’ll cre­ate sto­ries. Some­times it goes well; more of­ten, not.

As men­tor to mil­len­ni­als, I spoke to some writ­ing stu­dents the other day, and be­tween yawns and eye rolls, I think they re­ally got a lot out of it. In per­son, and even on the page, I have this Jonah Hill de­meanor, the sort of guy who wears sweaters in too-warm weather to hide a lit­tle ex­tra girth, or puts on glasses just be­cause I could never find a door­way with­out them.

If that didn’t scare them off writ­ing, what will?

“Just re­mem­ber,” I told the col­lege kids, “I have 2,000 more Twit­ter fol­low­ers than that hack James Joyce.”

This re­ally got their at­ten­tion, so I told the stu­dents that you write be­cause you have to, be­cause noth­ing else will suf­fice. Be­ing a writer is great work if you can make a living at it, which you prob­a­bly can’t.

I’m al­ways point­ing as­pir­ing writ­ers to Greek mythol­ogy, so much more cre­ative, poignant and raw than any­thing Hol­ly­wood stu­dios pro­duce any­more, in love as they are with the dark im­pulses of horny 15-year-olds. Give me the dark im­pulses of jaded and horny old Greeks any time.

The an­cient Greeks, as you know, in­vented ev­ery­thing ex­cept Twit­ter — Democ­racy, marathons, irony.

And the very con­cept of love it­self. Now, go build a few snowflakes.

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