Writing…With Children

I was reading this Samhain blog post from author Rebecca James. It’s a post every author-with-children can relate to, illustrating how kids disrupt the muse.

One of the commenters, Chris Redding had this to say:

You all need to learn the “Bleeding or on fire” rule.
I don’t invoke it all the time, but when it is necessary.
They are not to bother me unless they are bleeding or on fire.
Other than that they can wait a half an hour.

Now, this is really good advice, but Redding does not, in my opinion take it far enough. So I’m compelled to issue a PSA regarding the “Bleeding or Burning Rule”:


With every passing day, those enemies get older and wiser and will eventually — if they haven’t already — outgrow the simple “Bleeding or Burning” rule. You must remember these are your children. They have inherited your imagination and flair for drama. This means the enemy is cunning. Persuasive, and most of all, persistent.

Every author is urged to read and print the following MERF: The Muse Emergency Response Flowchart.

It’s a 911-dispatch-inspired list of questions and possible responses that will help you easily determine the severity and veracity of the enemy’s complaint. So keep the following color-coded flowchart handy. MERF use will allow you to interrogate the enemy without total abandonment of the muse.


First question:
Is the bleeding/burning victim a person, place, or thing?

If “person“, continue to Section A.
If “place”, skip to Section B.
If “thing”, skip to Section C.

Section A
wherin unsub/victim is an alleged “person”

Primary Question:
What is the name of this alleged unsub/victim?

Possible enemy responses shown in red.

  1. Enemy states own name
    • Conduct a brief visual examination.
      • If there’s gushing or significant flames, you’re screwed. Abandon muse immediately to prevent loss of life.
      • In the absence of gushing or flames, fend off further enemy attack with THE LOOK.
    • Beware of PDSD Post Dramatic Stress Disorder is a condition in which a thwarted enemy is known to linger and pout. This is a DOT (damage over time) secondary offensive tactic, and known to cause significant damage to author’s connection with muse.

  2. Enemy states the name of a familiar party [sibling, author’s spouse/significant other, or one of the enemy’s known associates (friends a/o visting neighborhood horde)]: First, calmly and succinctly demand the victim present themselves for assessment.
    • If the enemy declares they’ll be right back with the victim, select a counter-response:
      • Wait until enemy leaves, then lock the door. If the alleged victim can walk a/o talk, it’s not emergency enough to abandon the muse.
      • Should curiosity or guilt get the better of you, take full advantage. After pretending to investigate and mitigate false drama, refresh beverage, use the bathroom, procure and ingest chocolate. It’ll save you a break-time later. Lock the door upon return.

    • If the enemy declares the victim physically unable to move, don’t be hasty. First:
      • Assess the enemy’s demeanor and state of mind. They could be, and probably are, trying to trick you (again).
      • Inquire whether there’s arterial spurt a/o actual, visible flames involved. This is an important distinction.
        • If yes, equip enemy with polaroid, digital camera, or camera-phone and demand visual proof before abandoning muse
        • If answer is vague, the enemy could be, and probably is, trying to trick you (again). Reassess for signs of desception. Suspect gestures include eye movement to their right upper field of vision, fidgetting, crossing arms, touching/scratching face. (Touching or scratching of hind-end does not count. This is ordinary enemy behavior.)
        • If no, liberally apply THE LOOK and return to work.

    • Enemy states an unfamiliar name. Apply the following filters:
      • Is alleged victim real or imaginary? (Remember, this is your child.)
      • Is the alleged victim’s name really unfamiliar, or has the author merely spaced this person off? In the event of recall after further interrogation, return to “known victim” filters.
      • If the author feels compelled to act as if they actually remember this person when they really don’t, the author may save face by applying “known victim” standards.

    • Enemy states the victim is a stranger
      • All author liability is herewith forgiven. Author may reply “Who cares?” without penalty.
      • In the event author morality or ethics require further investigation of claim, author can:
        • Listen for screams.
        • Breathe deeply to detect smoke levels in air.
        • Interrogate enemy further to determine whether stranger’s condition was caused totally or in part by enemy or enemy’s known associates. If yes, muse abandonment may be required.

    • Enemy states the author’s name Apply the following filters:
      • A brief self examination should determine the veracity of claim
        • If you, the author, are able to write while spurting from arteries, don’t be too quick to abandon the muse. It must be a good one.
        • If you are really in flames yet still writing, do not abandon the muse. I’ll want to read that part.
      • Have you, the author, been fooled by this tactic in the past? If yes, you may wish to consider institutionalization of self.

wherein unsub/victim is an alleged “place”

Possible enemy tactics shown in blue

  1. Enemy claims house is on fire: Be sure to determine between “house” the dwelling and “House” the TV show before proceeding.
    • If it’s the TV show, abandon muse at once to go watch. Afterwards, write a bitchy letter to FOX for springing new episodes without warning.
    • If it’s your dwelling:
      • Evacuate computer, WIP, notebooks, TBR pile, and “keeper” bookshelves immediately. Should you die trying, don’t worry. We’ll understand, and won’t call you a dumbass.
      • If you survive, do not despair. Your next romantic hero may arrive to put out the flames, although sadly, they rarely do so without their shirts. A common, and understandable misconception in Romancelandia.
  2. Enemy claims house is bleeding
    • Once again, TV or dwelling disctinction is necessary.
      • If TV, it’s a re-run. They put his old bloody carpet back, remember?
      • If dwelling, consider rehab for enemy. Seriously. Either that, or you really ought to consider selling your house and the movie rights before getting the :censor: out of Amityville.
  3. Enemy repeatedly states the roof is on fire: Follow the proceeding steps:
    • Immediately confiscate enemy’s music collection.
    • Locate School of Rock DVD.
    • Insert into playback device.
    • Plant enemy in front of view screen, and tell them there will be a quiz.
    • Get back to work.
    • Dispose of confiscated enemy music collection during next scheduled controlled burn.

wherein unsub/victim is an alleged “thing”

Possible enemy tactics shown in green.

  1. Enemy names the family vehicle(s): Apply the following filters:
    • If enemy claims vehicle is engulfed in flames, remember you’re an author. You can’t afford a decent car, so chances are it was a POS anyhow. Call 911 and your insurance agent, hand enemy a bag of marshmallows, then get back to work.
    • If enemy claims vehicle is bleeding, don’t fall for it. Vehicles do not bleed. They do, however leak flammable substances, which brings us to:
    • If enemy should claim vehicle is burning AND bleeding, refer to filter #1.
  2. If enemy names WIP, TBR pile, proposal package, or “keeper” bookshelves: Choose one of the following illustrated responses:
    • :freak: or
    • :faint:
    • :bs:
  3. Enemy names furniture or other miscellaneous fixtures: Apply the following standards:
    • Furniture, or other miscellaneous fixtures are reported to be on fire:
      • In the event this is a controlled burn to eradicate chronically messy areas, direct enemy to nearest fire exit. Then clutch keyboard securely to chest, and stick head out door to ensure the flames haven’t spread to the other untidy areas.
      • If false, tell enemy they’ll clean their room if they know what’s good for them.
    • Furniture or other miscellaneous fixtures are reported to be bleeding: This could mean one of two things:
      • It’s ketchup. Instruct enemy to have fun with the hose.
      • The enemy is on drugs.
  4. Enemy names the family pet(s) Author response may be contingent upon the following:
    • Applied triage standards:
      • If pet is bleeding, even a little, take it immediately to the vet hospital. Such places are known to provide excellent story fodder.
      • If pet is determined to be engulfed in flame: Destruction of neighboring property must be taken into account. Author will be held liable for damages if flaming dog/cat/gerbal/monkey/boy-toy spreads fire to nearby flammable/vulnerable properties.
    • Level of author affection for pet.
      • Author cannot be held liable for not caring if said pet has vomited on author’s keyboard.
      • Author cannot be held liable for not caring if pet has stomped, sat on, or sprawled on keyboard with the express purpose of deleting work.
      • Author cannot be blamed for any hesitation if said pet is known to stick paws a/o nose in beverages (while maintaining eye contact) to hasten feeding of pet.
      • Author cannot be blamed for any hesitation if said pet sits on author’s mouse and refuses to move its spoiled, furry ass until it has been fed.
      • Author may be thought less of by peers if hesitation is caused by pet’s tendency to ingest its own poop or vomit. These behaviors come with the territory. Peer response contingent upon entirely subjective parameters.


Thus concludes the MERF PSA. Hope it was helpful.


27 Responses

  1. ROFOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! :rofl2:

    This is being printed off and taped to the wall by my computer!!!

  2. :rofl2:

    i’m dying laughing here. and so thankful my kids are grown.

  3. :holybah: This is a keeper! LOL

  4. and she says she can’t ever think of things to write about…….

  5. Thank you, Mandy for telling me about this blog. This is hilarious!!! And so very much like my children. :feint:

  6. :rofl2: :rofl2: You had me at the “the LOOK”

    I no longer have to give the look. I raise one finger. If they persist, it’s two fingers. With each finger they lose an hour of TV. When I get to five, I stand up and put the fear of God in them. I usually only get to two before they flee the room. :teef:

  7. That soooooo belongs in a Humorous Handbook for Writers. Seriously.

    Oh, and put a goshdarn warning on the top of the post about not eating or drinking while reading!

  8. Tooooooooo funny, can’t stop laughing even tho kids are grown!


  9. Can you tell I’m ready for school to start? :teehee:

  10. I have a question for Melani,,, did you snort the coffee out your nose? or just choke on it? our record for spitting coffee stands at Not only spewing, but hitting the monitor and the keyboard, with the result of actually having to replace the keyboard.” I may have to send that one to guiness books. But trust me, after 10 years of spewing any kind of liquid material due to Emma and her musings, I have learned never ever to drink while reading her material.

  11. You’d think the poor thing would know better by now never to trust me if I sound even remotely serious.

    Sorry, Mel. :flowers:

  12. oh, and another thought here, does any one dare to ponder just how Emma became so familiar with 9-1-1 dispatch questions? I’m just curious if the sheriff ever had a chance to meet Muse enemy.

  13. OMG I needed that! :rofl2:

  14. Of course I already had a brand new refilled cup of coffee and a chocolate cookie in my hand when I read this! Of my gosh, this is SO my family — did you peek into my life recently?? Thankfully school starts in two weeks. YEAH!!! Thanks, Emma, for the fun read and the laugh. 🙂

  15. OMG, I have used the bleeding/fire rule and sometimes it still doesn’t phaze the “enemy”. This was too cute though, and would be sure to keep the “enemy” busy for a while trying to figure out what they were supposed to do while I was calling 9-1-1 or trying to stop further property destruction. 🙂

    Seriously, we all know, that the more critical the need to get some writing completed, the more likely they are to want our attention. I’ve often wondered if I pretended to not be under deadline if they’d be less inclined to bother me.

  16. That’s brilliant! Really. Luckily my cream is frozen (cause one of the enemies turned down the refrigerator temp) and I’m waiting for it to thaw so I can have coffee. Or I probably would have needed a new laptop. 😀


    Yes, this says it all.

    The orginal bleeding/on fire rule came from Nora Roberts and what she told her boys were the only reasons they could bother mommy during writing time. It was amended when they got older to a major artery/raging out of control.

    It can be done, writing with little ones about, but it does need to be done with flexibility, boundries and an ever present sense of humor.

    Thank you for this!
    -Rowan West
    ROLL PLAY coming soon

  18. I can hardly see the screen for my eyes watering…. My kids are grown now but I REMEMBER what it was like trying to write with somebody (and all their friends) at home.

    I swear the world still conspires against me when I’m trying to get some writing done.

    Thanks for the best laugh I’ve had in a long time, and also thanks to Mandy for telling me about this great blog! Please, where do I subscribe?

    Dani Harper

  19. Subscribe thing should be working now.

    “Should be” being the operative words…

  20. […] If you are a writer (or engage in any other sort of work-from-home job/hobby/escape) then you T-totally need to get thee to Emma Wayne Porter’s blog and read her flowchart on…well, you gotta read it. […]

  21. A friend, who doesn’t have kids, sent this to me and I’m glad. it was great, just one little problem. What am I supposed to do when someone sends me these things and I’m in the middle of my ‘writing time’ and stuck and looking for excuses to take a break. Like NOW!

    Personally, when my kids were little I didn’t have that much trouble writing with them around. The problems come now when my DH is home and I’m trying to write. He has this habit of constantly coming in and asking, “Whatcha doin?” I give him the look and he has the most gosh-darn irritatingly cute dimpled smile that I just roll my eyes and turn back to the computer without throwing something at him. 🙂

    Now really, I’ve got to get back to my WIP!
    Silly Sandra

  22. Doesn’t matter how many times I read this, I still think its pure gold! Love it!

  23. Grr, that last comment was from me, not my alter ego. Oy

  24. Too funny! Yes I’m printing this off! LMAO!!!

  25. Made of Epic Win.

  26. BWAHAHAHAH! This is so GREAT Emma! Thanks for the laugh!


  27. This is a keeper I shall, tweet this link; very useful MERF!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: