Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why don't you get a real job?

Welcome Sheila Lowe, our guest blogger.
Sheila Lowe is a court-qualified handwriting expert and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and the Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting Mystery series. Check out her sites: www.claudiaroseseries.com and www.sheilalowe.com

When I first started making a living at graphology—that’s the generic term for handwriting analysis—I heard that phrase a lot.

My interest in graphology began long, long ago and far away—1967 to be exact, when my then-boyfriend’s mother, who had read a book or two on the subject, wrote several pages of analysis, telling me what my handwriting said about me. According to her, I had “an even balance between the emotions and the mind, a mixture of caution and critical faculty,” and “appears well poised, but is a victim of indecisive moods.” Wow! I thought. Someone who understands me at last.

And when I went to pick up some groceries for my mother and there, on a rack at the checkout line was a twenty-five cent Dell pocket book on handwriting analysis, my future was sealed.

That Dell book was followed by numerous trips to the library and bookstores, where I borrowed and bought every book on handwriting that I could find, and studied my little heart out.

When I went to parties, I usually found myself ensconced on the couch, surrounded by girls eager to hear about their handwriting and, of course, their boyfriends’. As I was fairly shy myself (my own analysis had described me as having “great reserve in conversation”), my newfound knowledge turned out to be a door-opener and made me more popular. I quickly learned that people love to hear about themselves, and they want the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly. In fact, if I didn’t tell them something negative, they wouldn’t believe me at all.

So, the years went by and this hobby became a passion and later, an avocation. But it wasn’t until some twenty-two years later that I decided this was how I wanted to make my full time living. By that time, I was raising three small kids on my own (one with some serious problems), had just lost my job, carried a mountain of debt, and then my car died an agonizing death. But sometimes the Universe gives us a prod, and for some reason it was then that I decided I was born to analyze handwriting. Go figure.

That’s about when I started hearing those words from so-called friends: “You can’t make a living as a graphologist. Why don’t you get a real job?” Well, I’d had “real” jobs before and I hated them. Hated working regular hours (I was always five minutes late, no matter what time I left home); hated working for someone else. To give you an example, when I worked at JC Penney in the women’s “foundation” department, two older ladies complained about me because I wasn’t friendly enough. Well, hey, my handwriting said I had great reserve—I was just being true to type. Okay, so I wasn’t cut out to work in a department store. Or in market research. Or in the corporate world, as it turns out. But analyzing handwriting, which really means entering the fascinating world of understanding what makes others tick—and being free to do it at midnight, or whenever else I felt like working—that was heaven.

It took a year of working temp jobs on the side until I could establish my practice, but since 1989, I’ve been my own boss, doing something that helps other people, and holds my interest. So, for anyone who has ever wanted to turn their hobby into a career, I’m here nineteen years later to urge you to Go for it.

I have this firm belief that success happens when preparation meets opportunity–I don’t know who first coined that phrase, but it’s been true for me. If there’s something you really want to do, refuse to hear the naysayers who are advising you to be a secretary or a nurse or a schoolteacher or a computer programmer, which are fine jobs, if that’s what you want to do, and follow your passion. It might not be easy, but if you do the preparation, which means learning your craft, then make the commitment and hold firm the vision of where you want to go with it, and you will certainly succeed. Then, when someone suggests you go get a “real” job, you can smile sweetly back at them and say, “I already have one.”

But guess what: after writing more than ten-thousand handwriting analyses, I was ready to kill someone. So I began writing a murder mystery series—about a handwriting expert, of course. It’s something I always wanted to do, and now, handwriting analysis has become my day job.

How’s that for irony?


Monica Ferris said...

"Success happens when preparation meets opportunity." That is probably the best advice I ever received, too. I am grateful you put it in your column because some young person who needs to see it may do so. And I want to underline it myself. It's a hardier version of "follow your dream," which also indicates action. No one is going to come knocking on your door asking if they can help you start your dream career. Like Sheila, you have to start it yourself. Which means I should stop writing this comment and go work on my novel. Great, interesting post!

Anonymous said...

A true example of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. What a great example of using unpleasant circumstances to craft a rewarding career. Thanks for the lesson!

Rick Taylor said...

Or, "From twenty-five cent Dell pocket book to twenty-five-hundred-dollar Dell notebook (PC) in just 40 years".

I am referring, of course, to "Sheila Lowe's Handwriting Analyzer Software" for the PC. Bet you never thought you'd have software with your name on it when you started out. Bet there was no such thing as software when you started out.

Great article, and most inspiring.

L.J. Sellers said...

That's the advice I give anyone who is floundering: Find something you love to do and do it until you're good enough to make money at it. Thanks for a interesting post.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Sheila! Your story of how you became an expert at something you love is definitely inspiring. And the fact you've combined your chosen career with your writing is something I can identify with. Thanks for your post!

Camille Minichino said...

Isn't it amazing how "lucky" people are when they persevere and work hard?

Thanks for a great post, Sheila.

Steven W. Johnson said...

Happy Publication Day, Sheila. You make it sound as if you just sat down and wrote Poison Pen in a day and a half. Fortunately, some of us know differently. It is a lot of hard work writing a novel with a twist that hasn't been used before. And using your own background makes it just that much harder because your readers must intuitivly understand things you may take as general knowledge if you forget to explain what is happening.

Anyway, thanks for Poison Pen, for Written in Blood, and for Claudia Rose. Good reads!

Carol said...


I think we started out the same way. I still have my 49 cent Dell mini book I bought at the grocery store check out in 1980. I too turned a hobby into a business as well as using it in my field as a counsellor for abused women. kepp up the great work!
Carol St. Clair ( Canada)

Kathryn Lilley said...

I'm sending your blog post to my young daughters, Sheila! You're a great role model of going after what you want to do in life!

Sheila Lowe said...

Thanks for the lovely comments everyone--it makes all those years of tough slogging worthwhile! If my story can encourage someone else to keep going, I'm delighted.

Betty Hechtman said...

Great post. I can certainly relate to sticking with a dream for a long time before it blossoms.

Laura Parson said...

What a wonderful success story! It's great to see someone do what they love and be able to make a living at it. And such a great author, too!

Anonymous said...

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