I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2005. I found out about it in mid-October, and even though I hadn't written fiction (certainly not novel-length fiction) in years, I immediately knew I had to do it. Some primal part of my lizard brain knew I needed to write -- it was simply a given. So, if not now, when? One of NaNo's stated goals is the end of the one day novelist: "one day I'll write a novel." Well, that day is November 1, every year. Fish or cut bait.
I wrote approximately 30,000 words that November. So I didn't "win." But holy cow was that a winning number for me. I wrote thirty thousand words that I would never have written otherwise. And it was a blast. Seriously, the most fun ever. Most of those 30K words made it into the final draft of the novel that is currently being queried to agents. I took way too long to finish what I started in November 2005, but I did get it done. And I will always be grateful to NaNo for getting me jumpstarted.
What about the time commitments? Let's be honest, it is a rare person who can't cut out a little t.v. or a little computer time to make room for writing. Plus, NaNoWriMo is a national event! You can show the website to your friends and family and ask them to help... perhaps by taking on some of your household chores for the month? And there's your writing time, right there.
Also, I was working full-time as a litigation attorney for a big firm the first year I did this. And I later discovered that the lawyer in the office next to me was ALSO doing NaNo that year. We got our billable work done, and we wrote in our "down time": while waiting for senior attorneys to return a document to us with edits, while waiting to confirm that all papers were served or filed correctly, during lunch, during our commutes, and at night after work was finally done. Fine, I didn't have kids then. But I promise you, if you want to do this, you can make the time.
What about quality? Hey, they're called first drafts for a reason. And you can edit crappy writing, but you can't edit a blank page.
And, okay, I only wrote 30K words in 2005 because I became committed to a certain level of quality. I kind of tap out at around 1,000 words a day. After that, the quality of writing drops, and my enthusiam for the activity drops. But if I hadn't been trying for 1,667 words per day, I never would have discovered my ability to write 1,000 words per day. At worst, you'll build some great habits about sitting down every day to write something.
Still not sure? Go visit Lianna Brooks's blog today and let her convince you. It IS worth it.
Got more questions about NaNo in general or my experiences in particular? What's the most you've ever written in a day/week/month/year?