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The Fiction Issue 2008

Written in the Writing

Sheila Lowe has been analyzing handwriting for over 40 years. She looks at one scribbled line and can tell you all kinds of secret stuff about yourself. It’s scary.

Vice: Are you a magician or something? Sheila Lowe: No, no. What we do is an analysis of the complex interaction between the brain, the eye, and the hand. We look at the rhythm, which is the contraction and release when you write. In the balance between that, we can tell what your blocks are. The more complicated a person’s handwriting is, the more they’re hiding. I’ve analyzed over 10,000 samples of handwriting and they always tell the truth, unfortunately. Do you test people you meet in your personal life? Eight years ago my daughter brought a new boyfriend home and asked me to analyze his handwriting. It was filled with red flags. I saw many difficult things like a head injury, which he confirmed. He’d been hit in the head on his job as a policeman. I could also see that he was controlling and had an explosive behavior. My daughter was very much in love and chose to disregard my warnings. A year later he killed her and himself. Jesus Christ! Yes, but it was a long time ago. I have sons, too—one of them is a dancer. He’s touring Europe right now opening for Chaka Khan. You’d like him, he’s tall and has a shaved head. OK, I might meet up with him, but first you have to tell us who has the most beautiful handwriting in the world. That would be Jane Goodall. The chimpanzee woman, you know? I like hers because it’s simple and not pretentious. I’ve never been a fan of flourished writing. What are the nuts and bolts of your job? There are several areas. The most common assignments I get are from employers looking to find out the basic personality of potential employees. People are complex so there is more to them than their handwriting, but the employers I’ve worked with often get back to me and say I was right. Then I also get assignments in police and court matters to analyze handwriting in forgery and child-custody cases. Sometimes I organize graphotherapy and do relationship compatibility. What was the weirdest assignment you ever got? I was asked to analyze Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter by the private detective Courtney Love had hired. She suspected Kurt had been murdered but the private detective suspected Courtney had killed him and then written the letter. He contacted me to confirm that. He was wrong! She certainly did not write that letter, Kurt did. But the detective still went to the magazines. Do you ever analyze yourself? That would be like doing brain surgery on myself! But I am aware of changes in my handwriting. Any handwriting tips for us? Some people think that you shouldn’t write with a pencil, only with a ballpoint pen or ink. I’d say just use what you feel comfortable with. It’s important to feel comfortable with the way you write. If you change anything, or force yourself to write in a certain way without knowing what you’re doing, it can create emotional problems. You write the way you do for a reason. It’s like kids sucking their thumbs—if you forbid them to do that they’ll do something else instead. Handwriting changes naturally over time. It’s shaped by the things you go through in life. Is there anyone whose handwriting you’d really like to analyze? I just analyzed Barack Obama! He’s a balanced, flexible, organized, creative, strong, and private person with good self-esteem. I’m pleased that he won the election! I was way nicer than I wanted to be with George Bush in my book—the truth is that his handwriting showed that he’s a superficial person who can’t be bothered. He has father issues too. Sheila Lowe is currently finishing Dead Write, the third book in her best-selling Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting series (Penguin/Obsidian), out next fall. These analyses are extracts from her books The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis (Alpha) and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous (Thunder Bay),,


F. Scott Fitzgerald—Romantic nature, willing to adapt and cooperate with others. A tenderhearted person who could be vulnerable to abuse. Sophistication and social polish. Ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with a variety of personality types. A relaxed attitude and avoidance of conflict whenever possible. Organized thinking. Adept at planning ahead. Resourceful, creative mind. Capacity to put things together in new, imaginative ways, after carefully evaluating and considering the many aspects of the subject at hand.

Ernest Hemingway—Depression and lack of energy at the time of this writing. An emotional nature. Willing to be seen for who he was at the moment. Persistence and determination. Need for plenty of space without interruption. Emotionally dependent, but not always able to ask for what he needed. Could keep a clear perspective. A hearty appetite for action and adventure. Restless, a strong need for freedom. Problems with commitment.

Oscar Wilde—Enthusiasm for aesthetics. Sensitive, a tenderhearted romantic who craved harmony. Felt shut out from the world, unable to connect with others. Too much closeness left him emotionally overextended. Difficult for him to trust others. Flashes of sheer genius. A concise, incisive communicator who used an economy of words. Intellectual curiosity allowed him to mold reality to suit himself. A need for security. Unfulfilled sexual needs.

Virginia Woolf—Extraordinary intelligence. Sharply analytic. Dry, sardonic humor. She would not appreciate a compliment. Unlikely to give praise to others. Closed herself off from emotional contact with others. Judgmental, yet absolutely loyal. If one disappointed her, there is little likelihood of forgiveness. Very definite views, not necessarily conforming to society. Always ready to argue her point.