Columns > Published on December 12th, 2016

Why You Need A Snow Day Writing Pact

A snow day is coming.

And before you tell me that you live in a place where it doesn't snow, let's define what a snow day is.

A snow day is a day's worth of time that falls into your lap. A completely unexpected chunk of found time that came about with no effort or machination on your part. It just sort of...happened. Maybe because of the weather. Maybe because the power is out at your work. Kaiju attack. Whatever. It could be just about anything, but the point is, when we're talking snow days here, we're talking about a day that you didn't have until you did.

Or, time to work on your writing that you didn't have. Until you did.

And here's why you need to be ready for those days. Here's why you need a snow day pact.

How A Snow Day Usually Goes

1. You wake up early and find out you don't have to work.

2. You cheer or possibly weep with joy and relief. Depends on your relationship with your current job and/or life.

3. You say to yourself, "I'm going to get a lot of writing done today. Right after I do some other stuff."

4. You accomplish almost nothing.

Why It Goes That Way

Found time is hard to manage. Because when you're in the midst of a day of found time, you're in a sort of magical time loop. You'd already planned the entire workday, but now, now you've got LOADS of time. Which means you can make a slow breakfast while you half watch a movie. And then another movie. And then it's afternoon and you don't know how it started, but you've watched 5 out of 7 Saw movies.

And you shave away the entire day like this. "Eh, if I work on my projects for 6 hours, that's still way more than I would have on a normal day."

"Eh, four hours is still a HUGE work marathon."

"Eh, 2 hours is what I would've gotten in anyway."

"Eh, Saw VII is rated higher than Saw VI. Why stop at a low point?"

Why Is This A Problem?

You're a writer (or an artist or someone who does photography or whatever). And if you're like most of us who pursue these things, what you want more than anything is a little more time. Just another hour in the day.

But because this is found time, it's easy to waste it. Because it wouldn't have gone towards your writing anyway. 

This is the kicker: Today is a snow day, but tomorrow won't be.

When you return to your regularly-scheduled life tomorrow, you want to be at your desk and thinking, "I got a lot done yesterday."

In the middle of the snow day, it feels good to lay around and do nothing. But every day after, it'll feel better to have gotten in some quality work.

How Do You Change That?

Make a Snow Day Pact. Duh. It's the title of the article. I can't make this clearer.

What's a Snow Day Pact?

A snow day pact is simple, and it's got two parts.

Part one is a deal you make with yourself. A deal about how you're going to use found time.

Part two is making sure you have everything you need to make that happen.

Part One: The Deal

Here's mine:

When you have a snow day, you will use no less than half of it to write. NOT "to get writing-related stuff done." Not to research. Not to do writing-adjacent work. To write.

And that's it. This means, when a snow day comes, I have to spend no less than four hours of it writing. And you'll notice my pact addresses my specific problems. I tend to veer off into doing "writing-adjacent" tasks and then feel like I've been writing. Which I haven't.

Part Two: Making It Happen

You need to be able to fulfill your pact even if there's no WiFi. Because if the weather is bad enough to keep us all indoors, there's a good chance the power is going down. You need to be able to fulfill your pact without power. You need to be able to fulfill this pact whether you're at home or not.

Some quick tips to this effect:

1. Every so often, print a copy of your work in progress. Having this on hand will give you something to edit in any situation.

2. Carry a pocket notebook, and when you finish writing for the day, copy the last sentence into the first blank page on your pocket notebook. That way, wherever you end up, you can pick up where you left off. 

3. Save versions of your WIP locally as well as in the cloud. See if you can do this weekly. 

4. If harsh weather is coming, plug in your laptop and get a full charge the night before.

5. Apply normal winter precautions. This means having some easy-to-prepare food in the house, having some candles around, all that crap.

The Template

Are you lazy? A worthless, lazy piece of crap.

Me too.

Which is why I made a template for you. Print this out, fill it out, and put it somewhere you'll see it. 

Final Thoughts

A snow day is a gift. But it's a gift you have to be prepared for.

Imagine you're standing outside a fancy restaurant and a waiter carrying a delicious, expensive steak slips on a banana peel (or plantain peel, if that fits in better with the offerings of fancy restaurants) and the steak goes flying out an open window and into your mouth.

You have to make a choice. And it's a tough choice if you're unprepared. Your natural instinct is going to be to spit that steak out. Something flies out of nowhere and hits you in the face, that's the natural next move.

But if you're ready for it, you can make a choice. Are you going to spit it out on the sidewalk, or are you going to be ready? Are you going to start chewing?

A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to snow days. Be prepared.


About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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