Writing is like rolling a car down a hill and popping the clutch to make it start. Someone else around to help push eliminates the need for an incline, but most of the time you’ll have to do this alone. Might as well get used to it.

That rolling start. It’s a start without magic happening yet. The magic isn’t always right there on the surface of a story. When the engine doesn’t run, and you have to get out and push, and it is almost unpleasant to quote-unquote create; that’s DIY magic. Building something from nothing.

Nothingness is a very full space to be in, precisely because of its lack. Everything is open, possible. Experiencing openness can be delightful. It can also be a huge waste of time. I suppose there’s a time to stare up at the clouds in exaltation, and a time to stick your snout in the mire and grunt your way toward enlightenment.

My current story is coming in a series of grunts. Pop the clutch, roll, start, spew gas and dirt behind me for fifty miles, and stall out. Wait, stare at the clouds. Engine’s flooded. Nothing to do but wait.

Out here at the crossroads, the land is flat and smooth. No one’s around to push. Just me, the clouds, and when nothing else works, the inevitable grunting. A golem or a dust devil may rise up out of the dirt.

This is a good place to be.

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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