National Novel Writing Month is in, many ways, just a practice of discipline. You don't have to be a great writer, or have won awards, or make a living off of writing. You can write anything you want, from a thesis paper to a collection of short stories to a diary. The only real goal is to write 50K words by the end of the month. And all that requires is discipline.
Don't get me wrong, anyone who doesn't want to participate in NaNoWriMo doesn't just lack discipline. It's not for everyone, and that's fine. I have skipped Camp NaNoWriMo before simply because I didn't feel like it that year, or I had a weekend vacation I didn't want to "ruin" by having to work.
What I get out of NaNoWriMo is discipline. Discipline is a skill, which can be improved upon. Sure, there are plenty of times I rely on my passion for writing or inspiration when I need to get work done. But I'm not always passionate; sometimes I'm tired or cranky or I just want to watch Netflix all day. I'm not always inspired. Some days my ideas feel old, unfocused, and cumbersome. That's when I need discipline.
NaNoWriMo, more than any other time of the year, forces me to sit down and write, no matter the quality, no matter when, no matter how. I just have to get it done, by any means necessary. That means writing on my lunch break. Writing at two in the morning. Writing on sticky notes at work, just so I can get an extra sentence in later.
Discipline is a skill that has been hard for me to work on. There are plenty of reasons for me to not do things, and forcing myself to is often hard, for personal and medical reasons. I don't feel bad when I go months without writing, because I know I'll eventually come back to it, when I feel inspired. That's why I like NaNoWriMo. Its the one month were I suck it up. No excuses. Just get it done. And each year it gets a little easier, because I'm learning and building on the level of discipline I created the year before. And its not always perfect. I still get behind, sometimes by a lot. But I have the skill set to catch back up.
NaNoWriMo is a huge pain. I don't always enjoy it. But it teaches me and forces me to focus. It gives me a sense of community, even if that community is only built on complaining together about how much we do not want to be doing this. I can't imagine spending my November's complaining about anything else.