First off, I want to be very clear that I have nothing but admiration for the folks over at NaNoWriMo. I think it's a fantastic movement, and wholeheartedly support it.
So why am I not doing it this year, when I actually do have the time? Let's talk about that.
(NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month)
To be a successful writer, you have to write constantly. Maybe not every single day, but as near to that as you can. Short stories, blogs, your novel, even fanfiction or roleplay (if you're doing quality stuff). Mainly, though, by the time you get through college, you should be working on projects you intend to submit for publication. That is, if you want to be a serious author with published works.
The problem most writers find is that it is much, much easier to do anything else than sit down at the computer and write. "Oh, I have to do the dishes first. Oh, I've been meaning to sort my antique license plate collection. Oh I should catch up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey." And so on and so forth. You know you should be working on your story/novel, but it just takes so much brainpower... and you'll get to it in an hour anyhow.
NaNoWriMo forces you to sit down and write your required 1200 words every day. Maybe at the end of November you'll have 50,000 words you can turn into something good - or maybe not. But either way, you've developed a routine and discipline that is vital to being a successful writer.
What if you don't want to be a writer? Why is NaNo still a good thing? Because again, it's great discipline, and it's a good way to work on your writing skills. And let me tell you, with the state our high school grads are in with their lack of writing proficiency, this can only be a good thing. There is even a young writer's program, in which participants under 18 can set their own goals, if 50,000 words is too much for them to reasonably complete.
What if you are not a novel writer, but a scriptwriter or otherwise? NaNo has plenty of other programs as well, and they just keep coming. So check it out!
But back to my situation... if NaNo is so good, why am I not doing it?
Because I've already learned how to sit down and force myself to write. I learned that even before I did complete NaNo two years ago. Which by the way, was fun and worth the effort and someday I do want to go back to that novel and see if I can edit it into something publishable.
However, for me personally, I can't write at that pace. Yes, I could turn out 50,000 words in a month (I've done over 10,000 in a day before), but they wouldn't be 50,000 of my best words. I need to be able to take a few days or a week off from a story if the plot is not going right, so I can let ideas sit and settle and stew and ferment. Even if I sketch out the whole plot ahead of time, characters and pacing can still take weird turns and I need to be able to adjust the story to work with that. It'd be much more reasonable for me to dedicate 50 hours to working on a particular novel in a month, than commit to a word limit.
And since I do have a manuscript promised to a publisher, I need to give that my full energy and creative juice, in the time that is best for that project.
However... NaNo is fun. It's crazy, but it's fun, and there will be a part of me that will be sad not to be participating. Because NaNo is about more than just crazy wordcounts - it's about doing crazy wordcounts within a community. Writing is one of the loneliest professions, so it is really worth doing the program for that alone. NaNo has forums to foster this, but you can also hook up with local groups for weekly write-ins, or organize a group from your own church, school, forum or blog ring.
So... NaNoWriMo... yes or no?
No for me this year, but possibly very worth checking into for you.