In Which You All Have to Help Me Sleuth Myself

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Image by

Cards on the table here, you all. I feel firmly there are few things more deadly than an author talking about her Process. What is there to say? You type, you weep around, you wish you were a florist, you eat some cookies, you type some more, and eventually maybe there is a book where before there was none. And although I am a person who is actually enthralled by tales of other people’s dreams, vacations and children, I have to admit that discussion of people’s writing process kind of flattens me. Please don’t be mad. I don’t even care about my own process. And for real, does it matter to you if I type on a laptop or desktop? Sit by a window or with my head under the covers? It does not. And it is right that you husband your interest thus. But I am forced to talk a little bit about my Process today, because it is a stupid part and I have a deadline coming up and I need help.

Here is the thing. Like so many of you, I sometimes have little ideas about a book and I write them down. This is swell if I am seated at the computer. I have a file for just this sort of thing. But it is terrible if I am Out and About because then I write the thoughts on horrible scraps of paper I find lying around. And even worse, I write them myself, in my own handwriting.

You see where this is going.

A burst of this thought-having happened to me about a month ago. I remember the moment because it was a Big Thought, and I was about to leave in my auto for a long journey, and I wrote the thought down, whispering fiercely to myself all the while: “Don’t forget to look at this! This is pivotal!” Of course I forgot about it entirely until a few days ago when I was heaping all the terrible thought scraps into a pile, preparatory to starting work on this book. I put the Pivotal One on top. Here is an image of the Pivotal Thought:

I feel like someone trying to decode Mayan hieroglyphs armed with only a National Geographic article. What does this say??? What? Here is my own best attempt at self-transcription:

“Take my fruit. Making the punt. She hung Lu it will be, me it culls feel. In Yarmore will mh. Why bother many it? Bring orken you know. Before it exerted her.”

Know this: the novel has no fruit in it, and while there is a river, no one punts on it and no one is named Lu. I never heard of Yarmore but would love to know an Orken, whatever that might be, so at least there’s that. And that last bit sounds like maybe I wanted my character to get in shape? Only I didn’t.

So help me help me help me. I will give a little prize to the first person to come up with a useful possibility. And it will not be a promise to straighten up the old handwriting, because I know me and it would be folly.

Unless you are Benedict Cumberbatch. Then I will do any old thing for you. Any. Old. Thing.

18 thoughts on “In Which You All Have to Help Me Sleuth Myself”

  1. Monica Edinger says:

    Wish I could help, but I have the same problem. I thought I finally had a solution with the delightful Siri* now in my Iphone, but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to ever understand me. (Imagine me mid-running stopping and trying over and over and over to say something incredibly plain, checking to see if “she” got it, and finding that she had not.) So instead of scribbles on a napkin I get scribbles on a phone. Both are equally nonsensical.

    *According to Apple ( “Talk to Siri as you would to a person. Say something like “Tell my wife I’m running late.” “Remind me to call the vet.” All I can say the persons I know seem to get me a whole lot better than Ms. Siri.

    1. N. Griffin says:

      Ugh, Monica! Actually, I am secretly comforted by your experience, because I think I’m the last person in the world not to have a smartphone, and was sure everyone was going to tell me that was the solution. But I am sorry for you!

  2. Melody says:

    Here’s what I come up with:

    1 Take away, first, xxx
    2 the part? M. knows how
    3 it will be, how it
    4 will feel, in xx
    5 will ask, Why xx
    6 xx it? Bring Me
    7 you know. Before
    8 it undid
    9 her

    Note: You seem to dot your i with consistency though the dot is often far from the actual vowel.

    1. N. Griffin says:

      Dude; dude. A lot of this feels right. A lot! Not sure about the M. part, but the feeling and being part seems right. It is like you are some kind of graphologist or something!

      1. Melody says:

        No, I’ve been an executive assistant on and off for years. Plus I’m married to someone who often writes grocery lists that look similar to this.

        1. N. Griffin says:

          You’d better marry me quick, then, because so do mine.

  3. Laura says:

    It’s very sad to admit, but I like to believe that one of my great talents is deciphering bad handwriting. (I am also proud of my parallel parking and quick urination in public settings, especially when there is a line.)

    Anyway, here is my first attempt. It doesn’t really do much for my confidence.

    Take away/army/any/AMY, first, where is the proof?
    The [bring her/higher] it will be, how it will feel, or [Y..] will work
    Why bother hurry it?
    Bring [only] you know.
    Before it elated/exerted her.

    1. Laura says:

      Or maybe:

      Take Amy, first, where is the proof?
      She knows how it will be, how it will feel, or [Y..] will work
      Why bother hurry it?
      Being only you know.
      Before it elated/exerted her.

      That Yarniwe part is really tough!

      1. N. Griffin says:

        No Amy in sight–I am inclined to think Melody is right and that is supposed to be “away”/ There is no hope for me. And a one-holer is an outhouse with just the one hole–no companionable emptying possible.

        1. Laura says:

          For some reason, I never thought of you as a “take away” kind of girl…

          1. N. Griffin says:

            Well but my cooking is so terrible.

    2. N. Griffin says:

      Laura, I *appreciate* your fast peeing. So many spend too long, adjusting lipstick and curls, while the rest of us stand with crossed legs and dreams of the one-holers of our youths. You are kind of the best. Why are you all better at this than me, who penned the thing? Why?

      1. Laura says:

        But wait — you have to tell us — is there an Amy? What is she used as proof of? Why does she know these things? And what in the hell is a one holer? I’m afraid to ask.

  4. Kelley says:

    My brother found a 4- holer built into what is now his garage when he purchased his old farmhouse. Talk about companionship!

    1. Laura says:

      Not to one up your brother, but two weeks ago, while touring Athens, I saw the ruins of a SIXTY-EIGHT holer!!! It was arranged in a beautiful square, all seating facing into the center of the room. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the business that must have gotten done there…

      1. N. Griffin says:

        Good lord! I wonder if the corner holes were coveted or dreaded? I mean, dread is the obvious response, but if you are in for a 68-holer, who’s to say what you consider the best spot.

        1. Kelley says:

          I wonder if any other entertainment was provided at the 68- holer, apart from the obvious.

  5. Wendy says:

    Oh, you should have brought this to a nurse first thing! I feel sure that I could get this in person, with a couple of handwriting samples. Though the trick with doctors is that usually I already know what it is they’re trying to say. A few other suggestions to add to those above.

    Take away [any], first, what’s
    the prob? The higher
    it will be, less it
    will feel, in your whole
    XXXX work. Why bother
    bringing it? This order [other]
    you know. Before it elated her.

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