I have been participating this year! Thus far I'm on target (slightly ahead of target actually) and have kept up word count every day. I've been in a slump for the past year, and I pretty much had a writing slump the year prior too so... Meh. So, in hopes of getting out of said slump and kicking my creativity back on, I decided to wait until day one and then pulled an idea out of thin air and started working on it.
Generally I try to use Nano to finish stalled projects and the like, write the next book in a series or some other such use. This year, I went in with the spirit I had the first time I participated and gave myself a blank page and spent the first several hours of Sunday brainstorming. Spent much of Monday that way too actually. But in the end I managed a viable idea and am sort of plodding away at it hopes of greater things.
We all use Nano for different things, I think. Some us are first timers just trying to finally get that novel on the page. Some of us are old hats delighting in the camaraderie that comes from the challenge, the social exercise that we, as writers, rarely get to participate in from our desks. It's a group effort with cheering and new friends and chance to help other authors flourish and grow.
It's a month where we don't have to keep to ourselves. More importantly, it gives us a goal to strive towards. A finish line we can accomplish. 50,000 words can seem like an unreachable goal to someone who had never done it. And only a month to do it in? Impossible.
And then you do it, and you realize, hey, this wasn't as bad as I thought. Or, inversely, this is awful and I never want to do this again.
But either way, you learned something about yourself. For instance, I learned in my first year that I could write everyday while attending college full time. I learned I could juggle a fledgling writing career with another thing.
As I continued to grow as an author, as I continued to do Nano, I realized that I had words to offer in encouragement and I really found enjoyment in helping my fellow writers learn and grow.
I found new ways to tell a story. I found confidence. I learned what kind of writer I am.
Nano isn't just about word count. It just just about the story. It's also about what we, as writers, learn about ourselves during the process. It's about becoming better writers. Learning the habits required to write daily and how much time it takes to get that writing done.
I'm so glad I signed up that first year. I'm so glad I've kept doing it, even though I've not won every year, the important thing was that every year I've done this, I've learned something. I can't wait to see what I learn this year.