Writing is a solitary pursuit 95% of the time. You spend hours alone as you put words to paper until your hand cramps. Or maybe you sit in front of your computer typing in one word only to erase it a moment later in an endless cycle.
But here’s the rub. You can write by your lonesome for years – wholeheartedly embracing the myth of the lone writer – but you won’t have any idea of your level of skill until you put yourself out there. Unless, of course, you are awesome. For the rest of us mere mortals, this means writing groups, critique partners, classes, and lots of rejection. This means strong-arming friends, family, anyone you know into reading your stuff and generating feedback. No matter how awkward or embarrassing. So long as you are committed to improving.
And there’s the paradox when writing for publication – what began as an insular, solitary trek becomes public at some point. After all, you hope there’s an audience for your work. But it’s all too easy to convince yourself that it’s just you on your little island with your typewriter, notebook, laptop, or what-have-you. And quite frankly, it’s safer for your ego that way.
But as painful, or terrifying, or annoying as it is to have someone else’s eyes on your work, it’s usually worth it. It doesn’t mean compromising your writing so it’s in accordance with the lowest common denominator. The more people who read your stuff can only help you get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses and a range of possible reactions to your work.
Saying all this, of course, is easy. Alas, putting it into practice is not.