I'll be the first to admit that I am way too busy. Last year during course selection my friend looked at me and said, "Is this a suicide attempt? Because there are easier ways to do that..." My commitments have only grown since. Despite having almost no free time on any given day, there is something that I might just be crazy enough to add to the mix. NaNoWriMo.
This November marks the 13th NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, an event where people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The event was started by Chris Baty in 1999 and has an emphasis on "quantity over quality" and just getting your ideas out. In my experience, it works. In order to "win" you have to validate your work on the site some time between the 25th and midnight on the 30th. What do you win exactly? Nothing per say, but what other event leaves you with the first draft of your very own novel? Each year there are also a few small sponsor gifts to the winners, such as a free proof copy of your finished novel or some free computer software.
I have attempted NaNoWriMo for the past three years, and although I've never "won" (those darn colds always seem to strike me around the 15th), I've always enjoyed my experience. The community is inspiring and supportive, and while it seems like a crazy task, having the support of the masses on the forums really does push you to write. Plus I've found that my ability to write quickly when necessary has improved, and come on, who doesn't need to write an essay in a hurry sometimes?
If you're on the fence about trying it out yourself, I'd say go for it -- you can always quit whenever you'd like. Don't let the lack of an idea hold you back either. A large population of NaNo-ers call themselves "pantsers" because they fly by the seat of their pants and start writing on November 1 with no idea where they're going. Another option is to check out the forum's "Adopt a Plot" thread which is full of ideas for the taking.
If you do decide to take the plunge, go to the website, nanowrimo.org, to sign up. You should also look around the websites and forums. There you'll find everything you'll need to get you through one of the most exhilarating, stressful, fun, and rewarding months of your life. Additionally, there is a Young Writer's Program for people under 18 which allows you to set your own goals. Anyone between the ages of 13 and 17 can sign up for either site, so it's up to you which one you choose. You could even try to get your school involved.
Writing a novel is a daunting task, especially in 30 days, but despite intimidating nature of the challenge, NaNoWriMo actually makes writing a first draft easier and simpler. With my busy schedule I would never have time to write, but with the excitement of NaNoWriMo I somehow find time. So I guess you could say I'm crazy, but I'd say that aspiring to overachieve is a quality problem to have. I'll hibernate in December.