It's November, which to writers means everyone will be talking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). First will be the talk about how exciting it is, then about how tough it is, then about the thing that happened that brought our writing to a screeching halt. At the end of the month, only a small percentage of those who took on this challenge will have a completed first draft. However, most every participant will have gained a lot of other things. It's those other things that I want to talk about, instead of NaNoWriMo, and how you can gain them without actually writing a novel this month.
Now, one big benefit people gain from NaNoWriMo that they might not realize is the gift of habit. When you force yourself to write for an hour every day for a month, it starts developing into a routine. At first it might just be something done at the end of the day to get in those 2,000 words before going to sleep. However, after a week of repeating that task, that end-of-day routine becomes more familiar. The mind starts looking forward to it. The mental energies perk up as that time approaches. It becomes a comfortable writing zone, and it is conducive to more writing. Eventually, the writer has developed a full set of writing habits that will help kick things in gear long after November has passed. If you use November as an opportunity to write something - anything - every day at about the same time and in the same place, and do it for a month, the habit will form. Familiarity will settle in, and it becomes easier to write. If you write something at the same time every day for the entire month, you have just developed a writing habit that will serve you well.
Of course, those lucky people who end up with a completed first draft have 60,000+ words of work to be proud of. (They haven't hit the terrifying December Edit-A-Thon, but that's not the point.) Having a body of work to look at, to behold, is like having that medal you get at the end of a marathon. To the non-novel writer, if you write every day - even if it's not the same story - you will end the month with a body of work. You will have accomplished something that you can admire, brag about, edit (if you so choose), and it can never be taken away. Even if it's just a journal filled with writing, keep it somewhere special, because that is your education as a writer in those pages. Be proud; you deserve it.
In short, if you don't think you have a novel in you quite yet, don't feel bad about taking a pass on NaNoWriMo. Have patience with those who will not stop talking about it, and console those who had to give up. However, if you want to still benefit from this month of writing, then try writing something every day. You will be surprised what happens when you dedicate yourself to an activity for an entire month.