What the writer does when bored


Cover design is fun. And hard exacting work. With pixels. And typography. And photographs.

It doesn’t look like anything until it’s done. You will see it then. Right now, it’s a pile of mostly things that haven’t worked. Yet.

If you want to see how it’s done by a pro, read JM Ney-Grimm’s posts: go to the site, and type ‘cover’ into the search box. Read everything.

For your entertainment, and because my eyes are closing and I can’t write a real post but I miss doing it, a blast from the rather recent past:

My notes dated March 18, 2015 at 2:58 PM.

I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for someone. Not for me – it is the someone’s doctor’s visit.

Me, I’m bored.

I just went through the process of finishing the most significant step of a project I was forced to undertake (civic duty and all that), and have gotten it to the point where I email the whole thing (in painful detail) to those who need the information to fix THEIR problem.

I was worried that I might be wrong – but going THROUGH the process and writing it all out showed me that not only was I RIGHT, but that the problem was way bigger than I had thought, and they had all the additional stuff WRONG, too.

So, vindicated for having undertaken the project, finally (it has been HANGING OVER my head for TWO YEARS), I feel pretty good – and I can get back to my writing.

Tools make it easier

Only all I have is the computer (no big external monitor), and the chiclet keyboard that comes with the MacBook (which I only use when FORCED to), and I can only see one page at a time or so, and that is not how I usually WORK, so I’m antsy.

I’ve done everything on the WIP that I can – and that’s saying a lot, because I’m writing/revising/editing the next-to-last scene, which is heavy. I need time, concentration, a nap first, and two hours in which I can let my brain assemble the pieces into a whole.

And I CAN’T do it here.

So I reread everything, and then put it away until I can get back to my desk.

I can’t sleep, work, go anywhere – and I will be interrupted in less than 15 minutes, so what do I do? I write this – and you guys get a post about what a writer does when totally bored?

The answer is: write.

If not on the computer, in a notebook.

I have been known to borrow paper and pens from a hospital nurses’ station and from the chaplain in a different hospital, to ask for writing materials in a hotel or a store if I didn’t bring anything.

Get the thoughts OUT of the HEAD, capture them on the PAGE, and the brain is happy and entertained.

The doctor comes out – I close the laptop. The doctor disappears again – I open it back up.

Really, this is a total core dump. And there’s nothing in the core!


Normal people play games on their smart phones. I don’t have one, and I’m not normal!

What do YOU do when totally bored? Are you a reader or a writer?


15 thoughts on “What the writer does when bored

  1. Janna G. Noelle

    I once read a writing craft book – I can’t remember which one – the following quote: “Once you become a writer, you never wait at the airport the same way again.” To me, this is so very true. I don’t get bored anymore because whenever I’m lucky enough to not be actively doing something (and even sometimes when I am actively doing), I use that time to think about writing – what I’m going to write that night and how specifically I’m going to phrase it. I run a lot of basic sentence composition during idle moments – so much so that I’m surprised no one has told me I look like I’m talking to myself since I openly do this while actually writing. Other things I do while idle include eavesdropping on conversations and observing people’s body language.


      1. Janna G. Noelle

        Yes, I definitely write things down: the perfectly-worded sentence is an ephemeral beast that needs to be netted the moment it reveals itself. I carry a pen and small notebook, but nowadays, I make most of my notes in Evernote on my phone (or Evernote on my iPad mini if I have it with me). While at work, I send emails to myself.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I find that the Muse only gives me these thing perfectly once – if I don’t record them, I lose them forever. The concept may come back, and I may get something similar though not as good – but the perfect wording is elusive and I get ONE chance.

          How about yours?


        2. Janna G. Noelle

          For me, it is exactly as you describe. The first insight is already like a translation of what I’ve imagined in my head. If I don’t write it down quick, it deteriorates like a translation re-translated – like a photocopy made from another copy because the original has been lost.


  2. donnainthesouth

    Alicia, J.M.’s opening lines remind me of the premise of the Ken Follett book we were talking about – the only one who survived the sabotaged sinking of the ship – only didn’t turn out well – so sad


      1. donnainthesouth

        maybe we only talked about the book his agent wrote – I thought it was mentioned in his prologue but I don’t find it; maybe only you mentioned it; will have to go back and try to find out where; this actually wasn’t even something he wrote but a quote from the Domesday book – which was referenced in another book I read – London, when I was sick – maybe just fascinated by history/genealogy/land records, etch. – anyway, told about the ship sailing and floundering, leaving just one – maybe need to find out who, in reality, that one was


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Hard to remember where you saw something, isn’t it?

          You can type in something approximate to Google – It is sometimes amazing what will turn up. Let me know if it does, because this isn’t clicking in my tired brain.


  3. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Thanks for the shout-out, Alicia. 😀 Anyone who visits my web site, feel free to ask questions in the comments. I enjoy conversing about cover design.

    Regarding boredom and the question – writer? or reader? – you made me laugh, because I’m both.

    When I’m headed for the doctor’s office, I always must ask myself: am I in a reading mood or a writing mood? If the former, I bring my e-reader. If the latter, I bring my journal (a simple blank book).

    The real quandary is: what if I’m not sure? Or in the mood for both? Do I really want to tote both e-reader and journal? Sometimes I do. But my internal debate over e-reader vs. journal strikes me as funny. Who but a writer would ever have it?

    I always have a good, smooth pen in my purse. Of course!

    P.S. There’s always the exception that proves the rule. Once I went to the gym without writing materials. Showering after my exercise routine, the opening lines to my novella Skies of Navarys rushed through my mind.

    I was afraid I wouldn’t remember them by the time i got home, so I begged pen and paper from the check-in desk and jotted them down. 😀

    “The tale is usually told with the great Palujon Clisto as rogue and thief, and the legendary Zandro Mytris as hero and savior. But one mother of ancient Navarys knows the truth.

    “She was there on the fabulous airship Subindo, the only one of the fleet to ride untouched through the storm.”


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Lovely opening! It would have been a great loss.

      I know what it’s like to walk up the stairs repeating the same words over and over because you don’t want to lose them – and then have more insist on coming into your head!

      You’re a writer. Keep a tiny notebook in your purse – or a few index cards. You can’t afford to be without paper and GOOD pen.


      1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

        …repeating the same words over and over because you don’t want to lose them…

        Thanks, Alicia. I must admit I was very taken by those opening sentences. I did exactly what you describe as I hurried through the rest of my shower, threw clothes on, and dashed to that front desk – repeated the sentences over and over, sure that there must be paper and pen somewhere and soon.

        I was lucky, in that the rest of the words waited until I had 3 small squares of paper (the telephone note type) and a pen. I covered front and back of all 3 squares, returned the pen to the front desk, and then thought of yet more ideas while driving home. Plenty of paper (plus the computer) at home, of course.

        Now my purse has a secret stash of typing paper folded in quarters and tucked in a pocket. Plus two pens! I don’t know how I came to be out without a pen that day.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I have Zebra 301 gel pens; I bought them because I like the fluidity of the writing. I bought 10 of them, with refills, at a superstore, then got a whole bunch of refills from a business supply place at a good price per unit – and I find that tucking a few of the refills into the pocket of my purse takes even less space than several extra pens.

          Then I got Scrivener – and got better at capturing things on screen; I will have gel pens for a long time.

          We need our tools.

          A lot of people type these notes into their phones, and then email them to themselves.


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