Dear Ed

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dearedDear Headword

I think I am a binge editor. I procrastinate until days before a job is due, then work 16-hour days to hit the deadline, often starting at 5:00 in the morning. People look at me strangely when I go up the street wearing my overcoat on top of my pyjamas (even if they are my best pyjamas, freshly ironed and masquerading as a tracksuit). It's affecting my health. What can I do?

Betty of Binginwarry


Dear Betty

I've got some bad news for you, and I hope you don't take it the wrong way. You see, I made up this letter, so you don't really exist. But now that you've fought your way off the ouija board and stumped up your membership to join Editors Victoria, I'll have to take your letter seriously. Excuse the peeved tone; it's not put on. You are one seriously warped vessel.

(But first, an opening aside. Your letter took me all the way back to the opening quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: 'And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good—Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?' The answer is obviously 'yes'.)

But let's start with some positive reinforcement and smiley buttons. It always helps, before coming up with a lengthy list of grievances. So, off we go:

Starting at 5:00 in the morning: This is no bad thing if you're a morning person. Your brain is fresh and you can probably knock off more work in four hours than you can in a normal day.

Wearing an overcoat: Overcoats are fiendishly clever garments, designed to go over whatever else you're wearing and hide it. Sounds like a brilliant disguise to me.

Freshly ironed pyjamas: Ironing is good. It shows you value your appearance and what other people think of you.

OK, you've had your daily allotment of praise and you're feeling good. You're imagining it's Saturday morning and you've just had a shower and washed your hair and you're about to do battle with the Age cryptic crossword in your local cafe. But it's not. It's Monday morning and this is reality, so give me some room. And, as anyone reading psychology journals knows, too much praise is bad for you unless it's based on how you applied yourself rather than what you've done. And in terms of application, you are seriously skewiff (or, as the alternative spelling has it, skew-whiff, which sounds a bit like a right-angled fart). So, are we sitting comfortably? OK, here come the right-angled and upside-down smiles:

Binge editing: Bingeing on anything is bad for you in the long run. I don't care what your bingeing vice is: food, coffee, alcohol, Game of Thrones, dark chocolate. They all feel fantastic for a while then you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, and start making ridiculous promises to yourself about abstaining, or start punishing yourself by trying to subsist on a diet of carrots for a month for being so weak-willed. If you can avoid the bingeing, you can avoid the punishment.

Procrastinating: What's the point? No, what is the point? What do you gain by putting the job off? It's not as if your brain is a fiendishly clever device that works really well under pressure. If you have a job with 280 pages and you delay starting your edit, it's still got 280 pages when you finally start, just there is less time to work on it.

16-hour days: Seriously, how long do you think you can keep this up? We bang on and on about sustainability these days, but yours is an unsustainable work pattern. I bet that after your binge of 16-hour days you crash and sleep 12 hours at a time in an attempt to catch up on lost ZZZZZs. Well, you can't. Missing sleep makes you fat and makes you stupid, and those are two things most people can do without. (I'm not just doing an Ed Rant here; next time you have a break, google 'sleep and ghrelin' or check out the sleep episode of Catalyst.)

Pyjamas: There's a serious line here about lolling about in your pyjamas. If you want to function as an adult, there are two things you need to do in the morning: have a shower and get dressed.

Health: I assume you're self-employed. If so, your health allows you to generate an income. Without it, you are seriously up the creek without a paddlepop. Good health is an asset, not some tool that you can abuse at will and expect to always be there. Start looking after your health before the Hockey Club slap a co-payment on it as punishment for inadequately compensating your local medico.