Last week I saw this post on NaNoWriMo by Rebecca Ryals Russell who blogs at YA Authors You Never Heard Of. She addresses the fact that some writers just aren't interested in NaNoWriMo, and I read it because I've always included myself among them. I write every day, I have long-term plans for what I'm going to do and don't need outside stimulus, and word counts? Not only do I not do them, there are times when I actually want the word count to go down, not up. Most of the first two weeks of November looked like this: read six-sentence paragraph. Rewrite. Now an eight-sentence paragraph...(hold music plays, 45 minutes pass)...now a four sentence paragraph. Move to next paragraph...(more hold music)... At end of day, think how I have ruined the story. Next morning, read it over and decide it's not so bad.
I saw something similar at my critique group on Saturday. Someone suggested doing writing prompts or flash-fiction contests as part of the group. Several people perked up immediately, "I'll do that! Sounds like fun!" Two other people, as well as me, didn't want to. "I've done that, and it takes time away from what I'm supposed to be working on."
I think it comes down to the basic question, why do you write? Because it's fun? Because you like to tell stories? Yes, and yes, and yet...writing is Work. It's hard. It's sitting down every day to face the dragon of failure and fearing the day you won't be able to fight him to a draw anymore, because on that day life will hardly be worth living. And honestly, for all the community that exists in the writing world, you face that dragon alone. You have to, because your dragon is not like anyone else's. (OK, official end of dragon metaphor!)
What I'd like to know is not, does NaNoWriMo help you get started or help you write more easily, but, does it help you get serious about your writing? Does it help you improve? Does what you start turn into something finished?