“It’s Not Personal.”

Often when something upsetting happens people will try to cheer you up by explaining that “it’s not personal.” Being laid off from a job is not like being dumped by a boyfriend, the thinking goes. It’s not because there is something wrong with you, it is simply a business decision.

This idea is something that figures into my novel “Identity Theft.” Candi, the central character, works in an office that is downsizing and the management is doing everything it can to try to fire people without bruising their self-esteem too much, or at least to fire them without having to feel too guilty about bruising their self-esteem.

The thing is, I’ve never really understood why “it’s not personal” was supposed to make you feel better.

Of course, the downsizing is not being done to Candi, but it is certainly happening to her. Why is it supposed to be soothing for her to know that from the perspective of the institution she’s not relevant enough to be considered personally?

Often when an “it’s not personal” argument is invoked that is precisely what is painful about the situation. It hurts because you are given a big kick in the pants that says “you are not all that important.”

When people say it’s just a business decision, what they really mean to say, I suppose, is “you are valuable, just not to them.” There is some comfort in that, but it is something that comes later, after the initial sting has worn off. It says that you have to make your own meaning– force life to mean on your own terms. That is a process, and not a quick or easy one.

People do not only work for a paycheck. We work to feel that we are doing something that matters. That it is not personal to the world at large, when it is so personal to us individually, is a source of a lot of melancholy if not outright emotional anguish.

Dealing with “it’s not personal” is the hard part, not what makes it easier.

Blog Tour: Identity Theft by Laura Lee and giveaway


Thank you to Arie James for the review of Identity Theft.

Originally posted on Arie James Writes:

I recently joined a blog tour from Pen and Muse Press and I’m super excited to talk about it today! I was drawn to this book when it was described as genre-defying.

Some of my favorite books are genre defying. Like Cara Vescio’s WASTED series. Even my own series PULSE, is genre-defying. It’s a new adult novel but it’s also a mystery with erotic elements and humor and a body count.

So when Pen & Muse advertised IDENTITY THEFT as a genre-defying book, sparkly glitter lights went off and I knew that I wanted to read it. I have my thoughts on it today just a little farther down the page. Oh, and don’t forget to enter the easy giveaway where you can win a free copy of the book!

But first, a little more about it!

Identity Theft

by Laura Lee

Book Genre: Contemporary fiction

Book release date:

View original 1,260 more words

Parables of Positive Thinking and Passion

This TED Talk by a fast speaking, nervously pacing economics professor named Larry Smith came up in my Facebook feed today. (That is how far and wide I’m willing to go to do research for this blog at the moment.)

Smith’s talk is popular with more than 3 million views on the TED site. And why not? People always like to hear others express something they already believe. The idea behind his talk is that you will fail to have a great career because you will not try to have a great career. That is to say, the only thing preventing you from having your dream career is that you are not thinking positively enough and acting boldly enough in line with your passion.

People love this message. All I have to do is believe. Click my heels like Dorothy. Be willing to trust and, of course, to do the work. If I just do that, everything will come to me.

As with any type of faith, it has some built-in features that make it hard to dispute. Each person, even the most positive and ambitious, sometimes hits a wall. We all have limits to our physical and emotional energy. So each of us, to some extent, will sometimes back down from a risk or take a break from work. So everyone can say, “yes, I just didn’t believe hard enough” or “take a big enough risk” or what have you. In fact, the most ambitious and risk-taking among us probably even have more of these self-crticisms. So no matter how passionate, focused, driven and positive you are– you can always blame it on your own lack of courage if you fail to live your dream.

Something similar to this happens in the Christian religion:  “Prayer works it’s just that God has different plans for you right now.”

This is Larry Smith’s advice: “Here’s a little secret. You want to work? You want to work really, really, really hard? You know what? You’ll succeed.”

Will you? Will you succeed without fail? How hard is “really, really, really hard?”

(I feel compelled to point out that this is a largely middle class ideology. The working class are too busy working really, really, really, really, really hard to chide themselves for not ruling the world.)

What about the people who work, really, really, really hard and fail anyway? Was it because they should have worked really, really, really, really hard?

Or is the underlying theory wrong. Perhaps there are obstacles in the real world that you can’t imagine, believe, or work away regardless of how competent and dedicated you are.

We’re trained to think this point of view is defeatist or negative. I feel it is uplifting, because it means that people matter, that they have value and are not losers whether their best laid plans go right or wrong.

“Dawn Crush Thing” Defined

I am working on a book on foreign phrases used in English on a short deadline, and will probably not be as prolific a blogger in the next few weeks. Today I found myself watching a clip that seemed to be directly on point with my previous post about computerized translation. (I got to it via this route–search on etymology of the word “bongo”—got distracted by a Youtube video of Desi Arnaz playing “Babalu”– which led me to this.)

I have come up with a definition of “dawn crush thing” a phrase coined by the actor Lucas Ferraro at least according to Youtube’s autotranslation engine. “Dawn crush thing” n. a flawed translation, as when you let a computer do it for you or when someone who is fluent in two languages forgets which language he should be using with whom.

Dawn Crush Thing

Recently I watched a film from Argentina called “Plan B” starring Lucas Ferraro and Manuel Vignau. (It is available through Netflix.) I enjoyed it for its intimate, naturalistic style and nuanced acting and I wanted to know more about the cast.

Youtube had a few clips and interviews of cast members, but I had a linguistic challenge. I don’t speak Spanish. (Tapas, burritos, Siempre Coca Cola!)  Fortunately Youtube has a technological solution to my special problem. You can turn on close captions and it will automatically translate into English for you. Either Lucas Ferraro is the next Federico Garcia Lorca and was speaking in poetry or there is something seriously wrong with Youtube’s translation. You be the judge:


translation 3I think the “path or winding of the performance” must be a very deep spiritual reference.

silver sea“I am Buenos Aries but I will not be the silver sea.”  This is way too deep for me.

emotional lakeIndeed, I do want lake. And the piece de resistance…

dawn crush thingI don’t know what “dawn crush thing” is, but I swear it is my new favorite expression. I am going to find a use for it.

[Incidentally, did you know there is a South America? I ask this, because a few years ago I was working an election out of an elementary school library and sat all day looking at the books in the geography section and there was not a single book there on a country in South America. Kids could read about Japan, Kenya, Russia, Australia, China, all of Europe but the entire South American continent was represented by exactly zero books. I was disappointed because I did a report on Argentina when I was a kid, and developed the kind of warm feeling for the country that you get when you’re a kid and you do a report on something. It did not inspire me to learn Spanish though. Pity.]

The Goddess Disguised as Herself Revealed

I found myself thinking of this song today. It contains some wonderfully poetic lyrics. “The liquid sun is spilt upon the sea…”

(Spell check doesn’t like the spelling spilt, but that is how it is pronounced in the song and it seems right to me, as opposed to spilled.)

But the lyric that most sparked my imagination was the one I chose as this post’s title. “Among the myths I know are real/The goddess disguised as herself revealed.”

It speaks to a lot of the questions about masks and self-imitation that I’ve been discussing lately in the wake of the release of the novel “Identity Theft.”

I’m not entirely sure what it means to be unrecognized because you’re not disguised, or perhaps I am entirely sure what it means but I don’t have words for it. In any case, I like the song, and I hope you will enjoy it too.

Novels and the Ancient History of Five Years Ago

9781613721032_p0_v1_s260x420I recently went through the process of approving a set of edits on an already published novel, which is going to be re-released in a second edition. This is the first time I’ve ever been called on, or given an opportunity, to revise a work that has already been published. It doesn’t happen often.

One of the interesting dilemmas I faced in the touch up of Angel was whether or not to try to update some references that are now obsolete. The novel deals with a protestant minister (of an undefined denomination but a kind of Methodist-Presbyteriny one) who finds himself at odds with his congregation when he falls in love with another man. At the time I wrote the book Presbyterians did not allow the ordination of openly gay ministers. This changed between the time the book was purchased and first released. (The Methodists, for a number of political reasons that I will not go into here, as far as I know, have not changed their stance.)

So the culture has changed rapidly.

Back in June, before I knew the publisher wanted to re-issue Angel, I wrote about a particular passage in the novel that was out of date:

A discussion on the news the other night made me realize that my novel, published in 2011, is already becoming obsolete– and I couldn’t be happier.  A panel was discussing how quickly the dominoes were falling when it comes to U.S. states recognizing same sex marriage. I thought about a now obsolete passage in Angel in which the two protagonists joke about the comparative merits of getting married in Massachusetts or Iowa, the two states that allowed such a thing when the book was written. “The ocean is sexier than corn,” Ian said.

In only three years, the novel has become  a period piece.

Most pundits now expect that the Supreme Court will soon legalize same sex marriage across the country.

So I had to decide whether to cut the reference to Iowa and Massachusetts, indeed to traveling anywhere to get legally married, in order to bring the book up to date.

In the end, I decided to leave it as it was because the culture has changed and continues to change so rapidly, keeping the novel up to date strikes me as being a bit like constantly upgrading your software. There is always a newer version.

Yesterday I quoted George Bernard Shaw who wrote in The Sanity of Art, “The writer who aims at producing the platitudes which are ‘not for an age, but for all time’ has his reward in being unreadable in all ages.” He went on to say, “The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time.”

I agree with that, and that is why I think I have to leave Ian and Paul where I left them, in the recent past. Angel is set not in the present day but some time around the year 2007. I didn’t know that at the time I was writing, but I do now.