The Dangerous Life of an Advice Columnist

This month, a reader asked me to divulge the secrets of writing an advice column:

It has been a longtime goal of mine to become an advice columnist. I live in a fairly small town, and there is a free paper that everyone reads that is distributed at grocery stores, the library, and most local businesses. I recently obtained a life-coach certificate and I am thinking of proposing to the editor that he add an advice column. I would welcome your suggestions for five or 10 things that make an advice columnist successful.

K. R., Queensbury, N.Y.

Dear K. R.,

Writing an advice column is not for everyone. Consult your doctor before deciding whether a career as an advice columnist is the right step for you. Side effects of writing an advice column include dry mouth, marked drowsiness, sleeplessness, distension of the coccyx, hatred of fondue, stigmata, premature brake wear, Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Munchausen Syndrome by Two-Thirds Majority Vote, cataracts, thrush, cloture, and a desire to wear funny hats to funerals. Do not attempt to operate a computer while writing an advice column. Do not attempt to visit Latvia while writing an advice column. Avoid diphthongs, the Guggenheim Museum, and the words "sprocket," "croque-monsieur," and "pants" when writing an advice column. Erections lasting more than four hours, though rare, require immediate editorial attention. Erections lasting less than four minutes should not be discussed in public.