The 50k-in-a-month pace requires that you write 1,667 words per day to keep up. For me, it's a pretty comfortable pace. An hour with my head down, maybe two. It's not wearing me out, it's not interrupting my usual writing, and it's not slowing down my usual productivity. It's just a pretty good month of keeping my nose to the grindstone. Why would I shun a program that's so close to the way I work already?
2. It's fun, for once.
Writing for publication comes with a mind-numbing set of anxieties and responsibilities, and I spend eleven months out of the year wearing that backpack full of lead. It's pretty nice to plunge into a disposable zeroth draft for a couple of weeks, while putting myself in a position to be useful to new writers. No one looks askance at NBA stars who still enjoy a game of pickup or construction workers who take off a month to work for Habitat for Humanity. Writing is something I enjoy--or can enjoy--and I don't always have to play for keeps.
3. The community is amazing.
It was just Halloween, and that means everyone else is suddenly interested in the same stuff I am. Spooky music and scary movies: that is my happy place. Most of the time I feel like I have to justify turning on B-rated slashers in the middle of the day, or rocking out to the Evil Dead musical. (You are welcome.) Not near Halloween, though. For once, we can all wear fake blood and eat fake eyeballs together.
That is true, and also a metaphor.
Writing is a frustrating, isolating, lonely activity that bores everyone around me--except during NaNo. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of other people are also counting words and fighting about the Oxford comma and thinking deeply about the difference between the second turning point and the black moment. Suddenly, someone else cares! The party atmosphere that swells around NaNo is irrestistible to me. We are all quietly doing our thing all year long. It's a delight to spend a month doing it loudly.
And networking! Until Twitter happened, there was no better way to meet like-minded writers. I never knew another writer in person* until I started going to end-of-NaNo parties. Now, after nine years of forum conversations and local meetups, I have a stack of books and comics by people I met through NaNo, and reams of contacts who are funny, friendly, knowledgeable, hardworking, day-brightening good sports. Have I ever sold anything I wrote during NaNo? Once. A poem. For a tenner. Have I benefitted from NaNo? Incalculably.
So that's my story. I've considered dropping NaNo in the past, but I get so much out of it that I keep coming back. I don't remotely regret it. And if you're also doing NaNo, or even just thinking about it, stop by and say hi. Saying hi is the best part.
*These dates refer to 2013.
**Sister excepted, of course.