Minor Stressors

Happy Friday, world! It is I, Tori of Tori Dot Gov, and I want to tell you here and now that if you ever find someone else typing merrily away on this government-sponsored website, chase them down with a pitchfork, because this is MY SPACE TO SHINE. MINE.

Why yes, I will take a refill of that coffee, thank you.

The world very well may be collapsing around us, but I have never been one to fiddle while Rome burns. I do not take delight in chaos. No. Like a deep sea creature, I turn inward, focusing instead on the tiny grain of sand that is irritating my tender fins. I zoom in. I double down. I get petty.

In the spirit of solipsism, here’s a list of things that are stressing me out.

Deadlines of all shapes and sizes.

Oh, you guys. When will I learn? WHEN WILL I LEARN? I recently slashed my hours at an editing job from 30+/week to 15ish, because I wanted more time to pitch and write freelance articles. ALMOST IMMEDIATLEY after achieving that dream, sending out pitches, and getting some of them accepted, I remembered the truly terrible thing about freelance writing: the constant low-grade sense that you are falling behind on not one editor’s deadline, but TEN THOUSAND EDITORS’ DEADLINES. Do the math. That is ten thousand angry editors coming at you with pitchforks. QED, that is TEN THOUSAND PITCHFORKS.


I have never gotten a grant for anything in my life. This is probably because I am always stretching the truth on my grant applications (“I have a team of trained theater professionals ready and waiting to build the set,” I write, figuring that if I do get the grant I will just force my brothers to fly out and build said set for me).

In the spirit of someone who yells “I QUIT!” just as their boss is explaining that they’re fired, I have decided that grants are an absolute scam. I mean, the money it takes to apply for grants. The time. And for a reward of what, $500? (No one wants to give writers more than $500 at a time.) Absurd. I could make $500 waitressing at a sports bar over the course of one weekend when the Blackhawks are in some sort of playoff situation. And then I could turn right around and spend that money on a sweatshirt that says “MacArthur Genius.” GOODBYE, GRANT WORLD, SEE YOU NEVER.

The accounts I now have on babycenter.com and momforum.com.

I’m looking for a few more mothers to interview for an article I’m writing, and I decided that posting in a mom forum would be a good way to get interviewees. Unfortunately, no one wants to join in the fun, AND babycenter.com made me PICK A DUE DATE in order to register. I clicked blindly and landed on May 24, 2017. The whole thing felt wrong.


 I know that getting better at writing happens in peaks and plateaus. Sometimes you advance really quickly (like, when you literally learn the alphabet), sometimes you inch along writing the same damn “poignant ending” over and over. I feel as though I’m on a plateau right now, and I can’t get out of it because I ironically have too much to write and it’s all due too soon. I used to think that simply writing made your writing better, but now I’m not so sure. I think you also need time and mental space to think about what you’re doing and how.

Actually, scratch that, I have changed my belief system once again. Writing will make your writing better. Even bad, dashed-off writing. Doing one pushup will make you microscopically stronger, right? Unless you do it incorrectly and somehow horribly wrench a muscle and then you can’t move for weeks and meanwhile you’re losing muscle mass fast? 

The five minutes last night when I thought my computer was truly dead and I realized I hadn’t backed up my documents in months.

 Actually, file this under “true horror” and not “minor stress.” If my computer ever meets its Maker, you will find me wandering the streets, clad in my wedding dress, holding a soggy notebook, laughing madly. It will not be pretty. I am tethered to reality by this blessed piece of…plastic? (What are computers made of? Angel’s wings?)


I don’t even know where to begin. Here’s how I’ve been feeling lately: ecstatic, dopamine-fueled, like everything is happening at once, and full of that subtle but deep underlying sadness that I don’t think any thinking woman will ever be able to shake. Example: today, I saw Picasso’s “Guernica” in person. I started crying. I stood close to it for ten minutes. I stopped myself from even thinking about taking a picture. My vision was blurry. I’d had so much coffee, and so little food. I felt: so moved to be in the presence of legend, so moved to be in the presence of great art, so envious of every artist and ex-pat who’s ever lived in Europe among this deep deep artistic history that we will never be able to approximate in the US, so sad about the bombing of Guernica, so intimidated by how perfectly Picasso channeled real human suffering into art, so restless about the fact that I don’t live in a city with Guernica in it, so dreamy at the thought that I was standing in an art museum by myself in Madrid, so confused.

I walked back, buzzing with caffeine and Guernica and work, listening to something just as blood-pumping and confusing as anything: a song that my brother recommended to me for a road trip with my sister but that has come to represent, for me, my first solo trip to Europe. Buzzing is the best word for what I’ve been feeling lately. Sometimes it’s literal (wayyyyy too many gin and tonics in Portugal), sometimes it’s because I’m listening to a great song and walking extra fast, sometimes it’s because I’m angry (I recently got an EMAIL criticizing one of my articles for having a TYPO), sometimes it’s because I’m thrilled, sometimes it’s because I’m making eyes at everyone on the street and I can’t stop. I’m too obsessed with burning imagery, stigmata, flash fiction. I just stopped writing and reached for the screen. See—the big gesture of my life right now is me holding my hands out in front of me and shaking, fingers poised in a gesture that’s half-claws, half-reaching. With joy? With fear? Even I, the trembling mind inside my only body, couldn’t tell you.

The State of the Union [Video]


Part of the point of this video (which I accidentally cut out of the video cuz I’m an Oscar-winning cinematographer who just can’t be bothered) is that I got a new computer. I HAD NO IDEA THE WORLD WAS THIS FAST!

Streamline Your Life for Spring


Welcome to my small Internet corner of grace and serenity, toridotgovlets. Today’s life lesson involves letting go. Yes, my faithful neophytes–those of you who turn to me every day for the small parcels of immortal wisdom that I dole out like precious jewels or the Turkish delights that Edmund eats in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which reminds me of two things: first of all, wtf is with that title, who gets away with something like that? It’s so long and clunky and random, I mean, I love it, but wow! And second of all, it is important to always be in touch with your roots–mine are obviously being homeschooled, which is why I can reference works of fantasy so easily, as though I’m buttering a single hyacinth blossom…


*chugs cocktail coffee*

Isn’t it weird that WordPress has a strike-out feature? It’s like they anticipated our need for hilariously self-conscious irony. Why would anyone ever need to strike out text if it weren’t for the purpose of making a joke? Like, no one is oging going to proofread their own work online in visible faux-real time (except I just did to be honest with you all/make a point, and now you can see how fast I type, and what horrific typos come with it, good thing I’m the world’s best proofreader when I need to be!).

You know what? Let’s just stop here for the day. I’m exhuasted exhumed Aztec ironic hipster mustache Mason jar Amish churning butter Greek yogurt grocery store butcher Henry VIII gout haggis exhausted.

The Means of Production


It’s impossible not to love April. It’s the prettiest month, the crocus month, the herald of the lover’s month (wait, how could I ever pick the prettiest month?): May. As soon as April hit, so did inspiration. I started the month buzzing with near-delusional creative energy and I have the crazed texts to prove it. Some of my friends and I are writing and emailing each other a poem-a-day in honor of National Poetry Month (although in the case of your faithful correspondent, I’m writing flash fiction…ish), and I can’t tell you how rewarding it feels to think up a brand new title night after night (I love titles, I will lick them off the page if I must, DON’T TREAD ON ME). I want to say something like “creation breeds creation” because I think it might be true. I skidded into the last week of March writing 15 desperate script pages a day, completely burned out, feeling like I would never write again. But then April came. Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I kept playing out new scenes in my head. And the scenes were creepy–dead body in the oak tree? nursing a dying baby?–so my inner child-eye refused to close because it was so freaked out. Does anyone else have their best ideas at night? Isn’t that moment when you force yourself to turn on the light and write them down so agonizing? And don’t you feel so self-righteous when you do?

You have to listen to your inner artist just like a pregnant woman listens to what her baby demands from her body. Sometimes you lay fallow and you can’t hate yourself for that. Because this is what happens when you don’t force yourself to churn out page after tepid page. Spring comes, and your whole self blooms.


Possibly the most irritating habit I’ve picked up over the past two years is a horrifying, life-consuming addiction to the word “literally.” It started as a hilarious joke (as do most things in my life, including the time I accidentally killed a man in Juarez), in which I convinced myself that saying “literally” with a super straight face about things that weren’t at all literal was the GREATEST THING EVER. I know, I know, it’s that type of demented thinking that leads to horrors like hipster irony. I’m not proud.

Just like the first time I tried crystal meth, it quickly became a habit I literally couldn’t break. It also spread to my friends. Soon enough, even my dentist was saying things like, “I will literally pull out all your teeth if you don’t sit still.” The only person who remained immune was my boyfriend, too busy playing the bass literally all the time (not an exaggeration) to notice that his woman was sinking into a syntactical quicksand from which there was no escape.

Instead of fighting the hopeless fight against invasive adverbs, I’ve decided to embrace the word “literally”–nay, to CELEBRATE it–by exploring the most genius literal usage of our day and age as found in a little thing I like to call THE POP SONG. In a world of hyperbole, a world where people use and abuse the word “literally” on a daily basis, sometimes it’s refreshing to hear of things that are actually literal. Devoid of all poetry, subtlety, wit, and pretensions. Refreshing as a stream of Fiji-brand water, which is literally a ripoff. The following lyrics are literally literal. U hear me?

1. “Girl, run your own show/but don’t be on some ho shit.” –Kreayshawn

This is the most hilarious line I have ever heard. I love how Kreayshawn DOES NOT EVEN TRY TO RHYME. She just doesn’t give a fuck. She has something very basic to say (I would totally give this advice to one of my friends if she were trying to leave her 9-5 and considering prostitution), and she says it in tuneless deadpan. A few more singles like this one and all editors will be out of business forever.

2. “Bad enough to die from one/not to mention four or five.” –3 Doors Down

Well played, 3 Doors Down. Well played. The lesser intellects among us like to grapple with the existential dilemmas found in the game Would You Rather…(my brothers always asked me if I wanted to “die in a cactus bush,” and I’m still not sure exactly how that works), but you’re way too real for hypotheticals. Instead, you remind us of the immortal truth ever-hovering around the edges of the life-death spectrum. Why beat around the [cactus] bush? It’s always worse to die from more things than from just one thing!!!!!!!!!

3. “Stalking-ass bitch/shit I don’t like.” –Chief Keef

I’m totally with you on this one, Keef. I, too, dislike stalking-ass bitches. This line resonates with me in a particular way because of my downstairs neighbor, who truly gives me the creeps. He told me that he keeps baby oil in a spray bottle and spritzes it all over his body. Then he showed me his shiny arm and said, “It gleams.” Then he told me to watch out for creepy guys.

4. “Interesting’s what I find you.” –Black Eyed Peas

I really respect the BEP’s decision to go for the blandest adjective of all time here.  Other artists may kill themselves trying to unearth the MOST surprising, original, fresh imagery for their tunes, but the BEP extends a huge middle finger to the literati with this powerful one-two punch. They find me interesting. And they’re sure as hell not gonna elaborate.

On that note, I am literally packing up my Chicago apartment and moving down to Bloomington, Indiana, right now, to get my MFA. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!