Yesterday I blogged about my experience at The Amazing Race casting call, and discussed the fact that--as with writing--even if the odds of making it are slim, if you enjoy the process, it's all worthwhile.
Today, an addendum: Be Prepared.
The "process" isn't simply about writing a book willy nilly; it's about working toward your goal in a planned way, one that increases your odds of ultimate success. One that challenges you.
When my dad and I studied the people in the line at the casting call, we knew our odds of success were better than most. If you're a contestant on The Amazing Race, you can bet you'll be required to climb, swim, run, and carry heavy loads. You need endurance. My dad is fit enough to participate in 500+ bike rides through the Colorado mountains each summer. I exercise 4-5x a week, doing a combination of weights, cardio, and boot-camp style drills. We watch the show regularly, so we have an idea of what to expect. We know we'd need to be scrappy, both physically and mentally, in order to win. We'd need to challenge ourselves. As I studied the people in line, I knew a number of them would be incapable of going the distance in their current state of fitness. If they tried to run a mile, they'd be frustrated and angry. It also was quickly obvious that many of them weren't fans of the show. They may have seen an episode or two, but they didn't know the ins and outs of the Race, so even if they were fit, they were at a big disadvantage.
With writing, it's no different. If you expect to write professionally, you need to be able to craft coherent sentences, plot well, and create characters who speak to a reader. Just as athletes train, working their muscles in order to strengthen them, so must writers. Take workshops, develop a critical editorial eye for your own work, and most important of all, get your tail in a chair and write in order to build your writing muscles. You need to challenge yourself. You also need to read broadly, study the market and know what's being published and by whom so you know what to expect. If you don't, you can expect the process to be a frustrating one.
Preparation may or may not score you a publishing contract, just as being fit doesn't guarantee you'll win The Amazing Race. However, being prepared sure increases your odds of success, and challenging yourself will help you grow and bring an immense amount of satisfaction, regardless of whether you reach your goal.