I've been writing for over a year now. My early blog posts chronicle some of the struggles I had in the beginning. My first time at a writers conference was my first time meeting other writers. Until then, only a handful of people knew I was writing at all. And only a couple of people had read anything I'd written.
I walked into that conference completely terrified. My book was complete, but I was still revising. I sat in on Bryan Davis' Teen Track class, and learned more than I thought possible in those few hours. I completely rewrote my first chapter. Because I had met Bryan at the conference, he agreed to read a few pages. His advice was wonderful. But working up the nerve to let him read my work took everything I had.
Today, a full year after that conference, I still get nervous letting someone new read my work. So far, every one has had very positive comments. (Even Bryan. "Talent and real potential" were his words. I had them engraved on a plaque. Just kidding. But I wanted to :).
But confidence-building is only one side effect of sharing your work.
Another is inspiration.
I was kind of in a rut, working on my second novel, but holding back a bit, still waiting for responses on the first novel and my many short story and article submissions. I find it hard to concentrate sometimes when I'm anxiously awaiting something.
Then I met some new friends through an online writers network. We've begun sharing our work with each other. (You see, I don't have a critique group close enough to my house, so I have to have friends read for me. They are not writers, and I can't impose on them to read this chapter and that, please get back to me, like, tomorow, thank you. But, writers can do that to each other. We understand the pain of waiting, and when we critique, it's usually pretty fast.)
My fire has been resparked! I'm not thinking about the responses I'm waiting on. I'm working forward, really coming up with new stuff. Reading the other writers' work and coming up with suggestions for them has gotten my gears moving again in regards to my own work. I pounded out a short story last night in two hours. It had been in the back of my mind, lying dormant, until I started handing my other stuff over for critique and taking theirs. Everything popped into my head like it had been waiting for just the right moment.
My point to this post is to say, writers, get your stuff out there. First, if it's good, you need to hear it. Second, if it's not, you can never fix it if you don't. Third, if you share with other writers you become part of a creative collective. Creativity feeds off of creativity. Don't keep your work to yourself!