Writers’ groups are great for different reasons for different people. Because writing is such a solitary task having a group to bounce ideas off of or just spend time with to hear them yammer on about what they are doing and the problems they are having gives perspective to what you are doing (“I have the same problem” or “I haven’t had that problem but this is what I would do” etc.) That being said, not every writing group is for every writer. That’s why some people have been with BIW for years on end and others try it a few times and leave. If the group is not working for you it is perfectly acceptable to leave and look for another.
One group dynamic does not mean the next group you try will not be a better fit. And of course there are definitely solitary writers who never use a group at all but I think your experience would be a great loss for any group.
The original format for BIW was to be a massive monthly challenge (or writing outlet) done in addition to one’s usual writing throughout the month. It was meant to push one’s writing above the norm. To be extreme. But over the years it has really evolved individually for each writer. If you feel one way is not working then it is best to change it up a bit and try using it a different way.
Some writers don’t write at all during the month other than during BIW challenges. This is the set time they put aside for themselves and it works for them. It definitely does not work for everyone and many professional writers would probably turn their nose up at it. Others use it like it was intended – as a challenge to push themselves above their current daily writing goals.
Many of the writers prepare differently too. There are those who have a predetermined story, including an outline with what they want to write each day. There are those with a loose outline who write up to their daily goal then stop. And there are those who just have an idea and free write on it as much as they can pushing themselves to sleep deprivation. Then there are those who do not have any story idea but just free write for the whole time, journal, or do exercises pushing themselves beyond what they would usually write.
The most important thing to do is commit to whatever plan you want to do (for that month) and then do it. It is not until we actually do what we say we were going to do that we really know if the format worked for us. We say we are going to do a lot of things and never follow through and there are many BIWers who have a hard time following through BUT they keep trying, keep experimenting until they find what works for them. Those are the BIWers that succeed. BIW is here more as a connection to other writers suffering through the same issues and as a guideline to get some writing done. How you do that is really up to you; within the framework of how it is run obviously.
Personally, I do not think writers should stop writing for three weeks. Even if it is only a page a day (250 words), I think writers should keep that creative momentum going throughout the other three weeks whether it is on a larger project or not. But BIW should still be a challenge to push writers above their norm.
If you want to get a little exercise writing done I recommend signing up to the WritePrompts blog email newsletter — it sends a daily writing prompt out seven days a week — force yourself to do the prompt (do not look for inspiration in the prompt, look at it as a mandatory exercise like you would do for school) for 30 days just to get yourself in the habit of writing 250 words on anything daily. Nothing has to come of these pieces although you might want to explore a piece down the road. Write to create but do not marry yourself to the piece. Use it as a habit builder.