There a number of ways to earn the next status that do not involve actual night stays.
a) You can sign up for the Marriott Chase credit card. Travel Rewards Credit Cards | Marriott Credit Card
b) Enter your birthday on your Marriott Rewards profile page, and you will receive one free night credit each year on your birthday.
c) Rollover nights. While they may involve actual stays, any nights earned over the threshold for your current level will rollover to the next year and will apply towards status earnings during the next calendar year.
There is also an accelerated way to earn the next status that does involve actual night stays. It's the Platinum/Gold challenge. While you need 50 nights/calendar year to achieve gold status and 75 nights/calendar year to achieve platinum status, by enrolling in the challenge, you can immediately be assigned platinum status for 90 days, which you will get to keep into the next calendar year (I believe) if you stay 18 nights in 90 days. Call customer support for more details on the challenge program.
I hope I haven't left anything out. Hope this helps.