She has an F in reading, which is mortifying to me as a professional writer and voracious reader. But, then, it’s not about me, I know.

She keeps failing her A.R. (accelerated reading) tests, and it makes no sense. She loves to read, she is endlessly inquisitive, has a ridiculously advanced vocabulary, and remembers everything that’s happening in the Nancy Drew books we read together chapter by chapter, even when we’ve got three weeks between reading sessions.

So starts a back-and-forth email conversation with Lauren’s teacher to try and figure out how to help her be successful.

The teacher tells me Lauren is easily distracted. She’s often not paying attention in class and probably isn’t reading the test questions very well — “They can be tricky,” she says.

Lauren and I talk and she tells me — and her teacher — the books she has to choose from are boring. She wants to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — a 734 page book — but she’s not allowed. It’s several levels above her A.R. level.

In a show of faith, the teacher, though reluctant, agrees to let Lauren try.


She devours the book, reading it in less than two weeks. And she aces the test.

“Lauren took her AR today and scored 100% on the Harry Potter test.  I am tending to think, as a result, that her scores are a result of motivation rather than ability.”

When I read the teacher’s email, I smile, laugh out loud, and think, “She’s not stupid, or lazy. She just not interested. That little shit only wants to do what she wants to do.”

And that’s the moment at which it dawns on me: Oh, my God, she is just like me. She’s her mother’s daughter.

My boss is a pretty good guy who truly appreciates me and my work. He will tell you that one of my only flaws as an employee is that I only want to do things I’m interested in.  (Personally, I think he should add proofreading, where to place a comma, and a foul mouth to Heather’s list-o’-flaws but…)

I’d never thought about it before I worked for him, but he’s right. Guilty as charged.

If I don’t want to do something, or if I find it stupid or uninteresting or uninspired, it will take me three times as long to do it and it’s likely to be done half-assed.

My saving grace, my boss points out, is that nearly everything interests and/or excites me.

“If you had a more narrow view, it would be a problem,” he said. “Fortunately, you find almost everything fascinating.”

“Except mailing lists, and proofreading, and excel spreadsheets, and writing stories to message….” I helpfully point out.

“Yeah, well, we all have to do things we don’t like to do, Heather.” (This is boss speak for: Shut up, quit your bitching, and get it done.)

I’ve spent a lifetime gently, but relentlessly, shaping my jobs into positions that are perfectly suited for me — taking on lots of things I’m interested in (and good at) and casting off things I don’t want to do (and am not good at).

Shifty? Crafty? Selfish?

I think not. It’s smart business. From a human resources standpoint — why wouldn’t you want to put your people in positions in which they kick ass and get the most bang out of your buck, er, payroll?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked for a lot of managers who have allowed me to use my strengths — whether that’s out of recognition or exhaustion, I don’t know, but….

I know now that Lauren will be just fine.

She may not be motivated by grades (truth: I never was either and I’m still not all that impressed by them), but she’s loaded with valuable traits and skills that can’t be taught: enthusiasm, personality, wit, inquisitiveness, and a charming ability to almost always get her way.


About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”