Dear Ed …

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dearedDear Ed

My life as a freelance editor is all feast and famine. I love the feasts but am less keen on the famines. What is the secret to coping with the famines, O Mighty One?

Kylie (No, not that one)

Dear Kylie

Thanks for the flattery. I printed out the phrase 'O Mighty One' in 64-point Verdana, cut it out and pinned it around the crown of my gardening hat just to maintain my reputation as the local eccentric. You can never be too sure; the competition in the neighbourhood has been hotting up lately. Even twins in B-double prams in this part of the latte belt are wearing 'I ? editors' T-shirts.

But flattery won't get you a polite answer. Truth is, sometimes no-one wants what you've got; sometimes you can't give it away. Sorry, I was channelling Bob Dylan there for a minute; I'm still having trouble calibrating the head I brought back from the 2011 IPEd conference. Whenever a helicopter flies overhead, my thoughts separate into individual pixels and I can't find them again. I'll probably get this head tweaked just in time for the Perth conference, then come back with sand on my feet and a new head in my luggage.

So, to famines. Famines don't last seven years, even if it feels like it at the time. And yes, they do end. Later, you'll look back with envy on the lean times and wish you'd used your time more wisely. But when you're in the middle of a didn't-this-use-to-be-a-purple patch, you shrink, presenting less of yourself to the world than usual and consequently getting noticed even less and getting fewer offers of work. This is Cosmic Editorial Law 1: The less work you have, the less work you'll be offered.

However, the feasts don't last seven years either, which is where Cosmic Editorial Law 2 comes into play: The busier you are, the more work you will be offered. I'm not sure how Cosmic Law 2 works, but it does. When you're going out of your mind because you've got five jobs on and you know it's one job too many to wrap your head around and you've got that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the phone will ring with an offer of work from someone you've been trying unsuccessfully to wrangle work from for the past three years. It's not much of a choice. Take on the new job and ratchet up your stress levels to heights you never knew existed, or turn the job down and know your dream client will never call again. Bring out the ratchet, I say.

Yours in 64 point Verdana,

Ed