A couple of weeks ago, I did two things that were extremely minor to the rest of the world but major to me: 1) I started promoting my work as much as I wanted, and 2) I stopped apologizing for promoting my work. Wait, no! I actually did three things, and the third is the most important: 3) I stopped apologizing for my work, period. Cue a huge side of relief and a little bit of a middle finger thrown up to the world in general. I’m done feeling guilty that some people think it’s “weird” I write about murder. I’m done feeling like I have to hide certain aspects of my success so that insecure people can feel better about themselves. I’m just done! Done with the weird freelancer apology dance: “Sorry for spamming you but here’s another article, it’s kinda long, no need to actually read it, LOL! Oh and while you’re at it, curious when my paycheck will arrive, not to bug you but it’s been four months, sorry for being a nag!” D-O-N-E.
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?)
Photo: Joseph Lyons
- Hello, Reader.
- My friends and I used to read this incredibly pretentious blog where the blog-writer was always addressing the Reader: singular, and capital-R. It works for Jane Eyre but let me put all doubt to rest right now: it doesn’t work for you.
- The longer I let toridotgov.com go without updating it, the harder it felt to update it. It was like I had to break my silence with some magnum opus: Here is What I Think About Writing, Here is What I Think About Love, Here is What I Think About Life. I didn’t want to write any of those opi (?!) at the moment, so I kept not-updating…but now, to cure myself of this stagnancy, I’m breaking my silence with the easiest of all literary genres: a list.
- The ENORMOUS IRONY is that I have been thinking about all those big ideas. That’s the thing about freelancing—it really forces you to examine things under a microscope. I mean, you could coast along forever writing listicles for $25/piece, but if you’ve got any sort of intelligence at all you’re gonna want to be constantly growing, expanding your writerly resumé, and usually working toward some vague end goal like Be a Great Writer or Sell That Screenplay or Get Published in The Atlantic. I have goals, some vague, some not…maybe I’ll write them down here someday, so the great choking hand of the internet can hold me to them. Anyway, I’ve been thinking a ton about writing—especially the way writing relates to money—and love and life and religion and the plight of the earth, but either my thoughts are still too vague to blog about or too precious to blog about or too convoluted to bl—HOLD UP, this isn’t a blog, I forgot. This is my “online portfolio,” and don’t you ever forget it.
- I have come up with a GENIUS money-making scheme that is already threatening to ruin my life. I sold a book (“Congrats!” “Oh, thanks!” Moving right along…), and in order to fund my extravagant lifestyle while I write said book, I have decided to first write a romance novel, sell THAT book, and live off the profits. It’s a sort of Russian nesting doll of book-selling, if you will.
- I’ve lived in Los Angeles for one year now! Whoa. I own only one succulent and a dead air plant, which in this, the city of succulents and air plants, is an absolutely disgraceful lifestyle choice.
- In this, my twenty-seventh year, I sold a book and got engaged (to the author of Charlie’s Opinions, no less). I wonder what twenty-six-year-old Tori would have thought of that. Multiple people have told me that massive changes happen when you’re twenty-seven. I love change—in fact I might be addicted to change.
- BUT!!!!!! In the six years since graduating college I’ve lived in six different apartments in three cities. I’m tiiiired, guys! Part of me wants to keep moving forever and part of me wants to buy a tiny white house in Marfa, Texas. Guessing I’ll fall somewhere in the middle: a flat in Paris and an apartment in every American city that inspires me (so, all of them).
- Note to all potential editors: do you want a piece written about the changing economic climate in Reno, Nevada??? I will gladly fly myself there and pay for my own housing. This is not a joke; I need to write a piece about Reno. No I am not copying Tom Wolfe!! No Vegas is not next on my list!!!!!!!
- I’m seeking a partner in crime for something very specific: I want to go to a diner, drink a ton of cheap coffee, stay up all night, and emerge the next morning having both written a film noir script. It has to be diner coffee and it has to be a film noir. Any takers? LET’S PUSH EXPERIENCE TO ITS AWFUL LIMIT!
Oh, my little site, how I’ve neglected you! And if you think I’ve neglected tori dot gov dot com, you should see my actual journal—poor empty baby.
Like everyone else in the world, I have been very busy. I have been traveling so much, it’s like I think it’s tax-deductible or something! HA! HA! HA! IRS, YOU’RE NOT LISTENING, RIGHT? I’ve been struggling to stay on top of work while simultaneously moving forward with “work”—excuse me, MY LEGACY—which would be the most difficult and highly-ranked gymnastics move in the Olympics if I had anything to say about it. I’ve been editing a dissertation about Ecclesiastes (not mine). I’ve been reading a little book called The Grapes of Wrath which is a really great book to read in California, because you will end up watering the drought-ridden soil with your own unstoppable tears! Steinbeck, WHO KNEW YOU HAD IT IN YOU?! And I recently made a spreadsheet only to discover I have nine different sources of income. You say freelancer, I say TRUST FUND.
I’m only here tonight to make a brief point and also to ease my soul of the burden of having an un-updated website (NOT BLOG). Ahem. Tonight, a favorite album reminded me that it’s so easy to go through life with your head down: focused on your work, your friends, your love, your goals. But one of the things I like best about the world is, well, it’s a WORLD. In a UNIVERSE. And there are certain—shall we say—pieces of art that, I find, have the effect of gently opening me up to the world around me. And it feels insane. It’s the best type of vertigo. These particular books/albums/government secrets thrill me in a very specific way, reminding me that there are so many places to go and so much gorgeous unknown stuff in the world. And it’s not just about geography, but about time, too—people in the past! Can’t forget about them! And speaking of time, what about tesseracts? Which reminds me, I really need to re-read all of Madeline L’Engle— who was one of my favorite authors as a child—because I suspect that going back to her novels would feel like a little personal time-traveling of my own.
I can’t tell you what exactly I’m listening to right now that’s opening up my world/memories/perceptions like this. Because it’s cliché, and because you have to find your own stuff. But only a handful of art gives me this feeling. It’s worth seeking it out. And in my experience, that sort of perception-opening-up, human-raising-her-head-to-the-universe experience mostly only happens after midnight—or if you find yourself so lucky as to be sitting outside somewhere in Europe. Or when you’re counting your millions, but that’s a story for another night.
Some days you like your job. Some days you don’t. Here are 16 things that probably won’t have any noticeable effect on how you feel about your life’s work.
- Making to-do lists on subpar stationary.
- Reading stories about Florida teenagers who murdered their parents. Yikes, bro. Yikes.
- Loudly attempting to clarify your order to a distraught barista who has fled halfway across the room because the toaster just caught fire. “Sir, I meant half whole milk, not half-and-half,” you wail, but he has fled, and he hears you not.
- Mosquito nets, even though I’ll be the first to admit that they are pretty.
- Finding typos in online New Yorker articles. I see you, double space. I see you.
- Biking up very low but very long hills, the worst activity in the free world.
- Stretching in public.
- Getting bitten by rabid dogs.
- Glaring back at the dude who glared at you because you mildly bumped his table at the coffee shop, thus creating a tiny wave in his coffee and APPARENTLY HE CAN’T GO ON LIVING LIKE THIS.
- When the coat of the person sitting next to you on a plane is just barely touching your elbow and you know they’re doing it on purpose to encroach on your personal space but what can you do? You’d sound like a psychopath if you accused them of anything. So you nudge the coat slightly with your elbow. They notice nothing.
- A Yogi Tea bag that says “I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful.”
- A well-timed fax.
- Counting your blessings.
- Books that literary people “enjoy.”