When Your Excuse Hurts Yourself and Others: An Inspirational Rant

Okay, rather than snarking at the separate statements which have combined into a irritating whole, I’m just gonna say this over here, as a sort of inspirational rant.

I’m going to use NaNoWriMo and myself as my talking example, because it’s general and won’t point blame to anyone, and also because it’s an easy example this month. But this concept goes well beyond NaNo.

So here goes:


Sure, there are different levels of obstacles. A cold and a wildfire evacuation are not comparable, and I’m not remotely saying they’re equivalent. If your house is on fire, you’re excused from NaNoWriMo word count today.

But can we please stop saying that only people without my particular responsibility achieve things, or that if someone did achieve something, it’s because they didn’t have this particular obstacle, like I have?

Again with NaNoWriMo as example: Yes, Thanksgiving falls during NaNoWriMo. Every year. Yes, this year I am hosting and cooking for Thanksgiving AND doing NaNoWriMo. Thousands and thousands of people do NaNoWriMo in November and over Thanksgiving, so saying you really wish you could do NaNo but it’s so sad, you have Thanksgiving, is kind of silly.

You are not obligated to play NaNoWriMo, of course not. But if you don’t do it, just don’t do it. Don’t make the excuse that you can’t because you face a wholly foreseen holiday that everyone else doing it is also planning around.

Further, there are no NaNo Police who confiscate your laptop if you don’t reach 50,000 words. You could do what you can and make some progress, instead of just not starting because there’s a turkey at some point.

It’s Not Just NaNoWriMo

I’m using NaNo as an example, but there are also no Diet Police for if you don’t lose all 20 pounds, or if your dog’s sit is sloppy, or if you only recycle half the junk closet, or if you don’t finish reading the library book and have to renew it, or whatever. It’s simpler to say “It’s impossible” than to set a smaller goal, but smaller progress is still way more progress than “I wish I could write/train my dog/read a book/exercise/whatever but I have kids/have a job/am in school/whatever.”

Honestly, most of the human race has always had kids and a job and whatever.

I’m not pushing you to do anything you really don’t want to do. But when you say to me, “Well, you can do NaNoWriMo, you don’t have kids,” you’re simultaneously making an excuse that’s obviously overcome regularly by thousands of people and you’re belittling the effort I make, implying I don’t actually have to work at achievement because I don’t have the kind of Responsibility that you do.

(And when you say that to someone who wants kids but doesn’t have them, you’re also a jerk. And yes, I’ve seen this said to/around some who would dearly love to have the complication of fitting in both diaper changes and word sprints, so maybe be a little more considerate.)

Still referring here to NaNo and myself, but this happens on many fronts and to many people.

Being a writer is easy. It's like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You're on fire. Everything is on fire and you're in hell.
It’s hard at the best of times, for all of us.

Look, I know obstacles and responsibilities are real and are frustrating, but don’t sell yourself short by making them into excuses. You are capable of so many things, even if you have to start with smaller goals.

Don’t negate other people’s real effort by pretending they don’t have obstacles or responsibilities. Maybe instead spend that energy choosing what goals matter most to you and making a plan to work toward them, even if it’s in smaller steps than someone else is doing. Then ask someone else to help you toward those goals. Tap into that NaNo (or other!) community for support in your progress.

Two years ago I made the conscious choice to fail NaNo to achieve a bigger goal, and it was the right decision. But I didn’t snark at anyone who did finish that they could succeed because they didn’t have the pressure I had.

There’s a difference between making good, responsible decisions about allocation of resources, and making excuses while backhandedly putting down other people. The latter is harmful to others and yourself. Let’s set more and different goals instead.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s “The Arena,” by Lindsey Stirling.

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  1. Oh my goodness, I love this! 😍😍😍

  2. Great thoughts here. Thank you for sharing. I agree. I tend to feel hurt when people minimize what I do because I don’t share the same situation they do, even though I have to make sacrifices and intentional decisions to ensure that I reach my goals. Thank you for articulating this so well. Have a great month!

  3. I love your post Laura! :-)

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