Are you a good writer? Want to get better? Well, you’d better get out there and earn more XP.
Whatever innate talent and ability you think you have, those are just your raw stats. They indicate promise, not skill. To make the most of that writing ability, you need to level up. And to level up, you need experience.
Words are your XP
The concept of experience points has been around since the earliest form of D&D. The idea is that by repeatedly performing an action relevant to your chosen profession. In the case of D&D, that was by finding treasure and killing monsters. For a writer, it’s by writing.
However, unlike many professions, writers have an excellent method of keeping track of their experience gain: words. Ask a doctor or an engineer how much experience they have, and they’ll probably quote you a number of years. But a writer can sum up all the short stories, novels, and assorted other published works and find a hard number. Unlike two doctors with different workloads, a writer can more easily get down into the details of what years of work mean in terms of experience gained. If one publishes a 700k word doorstop every other year, and a second publishes a 20k novella every month, a little quick math can determine who of them gets more writing done. And if they’ve been at it for similar lengths of time, you can tell who has more experience.
NaNoWriMo is a quest
Every year, NaNoWriMo sets a goal for authors and would-be authors: write 50,000 words in a single month (specifically, November). Essentially this is a quest worth 50k XP. This event isn’t just about getting people to write, it’s about getting people experience in writing. Even if the particular effort never sees the light of day, the successful NaNoWriMo participant is 50,000 words closer to their next level of writing.