Down In It

God I hate the story I’m working on right now. It is such a piece of crap. What was I thinking? Why did I start this? Who are these make-believe people with their make-believe problems and why oh why did I ever get involved with them? Will they never leave me in peace?

Second act problems.

Starting is great. It’s like falling in love. All you see are the surprises and possibilities and you’re giddy with hope. Each new twist is a delight. Finishing is great, too. You can kill people or save them or blow up the world or gently fold it into an apocalypse. At the end, you can do anything you want. Same as the beginning.

But the second act is constricted. You can’t run wild. You can’t go off the deep end.You have to wallow in the shallows with the people you made and deal with their tiresome shit.

I always felt the same in the middle of visual compositions, so I guess second act problems are a normal part of the creative process. Kind of like human developmental stages. Middles are like pre-teens. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Gangly, with braces and mood swings. No longer small and cute, but not yet mature and graceful. Parents love their babies and grown children, but tell me, who really adores their thirteen-year-old?

I was going in a really different direction here, but now I feel I need to stop and say if you are thirteen and reading this–which seems unlikely, but anything is possible–that your parents in fact truly love and adore you no matter how you look or behave. It’s genetically impossible for parents not to love their children. The problem with parents is that they are human and have their own personalities and illnesses that sometimes make them incapable of enacting their love. Plenty of people grow up without parents, or with nothing but the shadow of a parent. I speak from personal experience. So if you are thirteen and reading this and you know or suspect your parents don’t adore you, let me state this fact: It’s not the end of the world. You can survive and thrive, and you’ll come out stronger and smarter growing up feral. But I know it’s hard. We all want to be loved.

Now that I’ve finished offending both parents and children, the serious questions of the second act need to be answered. If I ever get “blocked,” it’s here. I use quotation marks because I don’t believe in blocks. Yeah, you heard me right. Saying you have writer’s block is just an excuse to avoid what you don’t want to face in your self or your process or your story. It’s like saying No to life, and if you want to write you have to say Yes.

Even if it’s ugly. Even when it’s a slog.

Back into the mire…


Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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