If you grow up shooting hoops in your driveway, you will progress as a shooter and will eventually become very good at it. By standing in front of the net for hours on end practicing your jump shot, three pointer, and free throw you will hone your skills as someone who can make buckets, and your confidence in your abilities will grow. You will get to a certain point where you feel like you’ve peaked; after you’ve shot from every square inch of your driveway several times your growth as a shooter will slow and you will eventually not feel challenged in anyway. However, when you sign up for the basketball team at school, and start playing basketball with other players, your learning begins all over again, and once again your abilities will grow and you will become better.
The same is true for writing and writers.
If you write for years and never show anybody your writing, you are shooting hoops in front of your driveway. Whereas it might have been scary and challenging at first, your ability to write what you want and when you want it will reach a peak. You may not even see it, because to you basketball is and has always been just you shooting hoops in your driveway. But if you are serious about growing as a writer and bettering your writing than you need to sign up for the team and get out there with other writers.
I am a part of two writer’s groups who each contain about 5 writers and who each meet once a month. I read and give honest feedback to every writer while they do the same for me. It’s incredibly helpful and a big advantage to have another trained set of fresh eyes review your work. On top of my writer’s groups I actively share my writing amongst close friends and other writers who I have met over the years. Every chance I get I’m looking to get out on that court.
It’s very simple: To be a great basketball player, it takes more than just shooting hoops. You have to surround yourself with great basketball players. To be a great writer, it takes more than just writing. You have to surround yourself with great writers.
As I’ve said before, writing can be a very lonely task. If you don’t make it a point to put yourself out there and get involved, you never will. It won’t automatically happen; basketball players won’t come to your driveway to play. Putting your talents and abilities out on the floor for everybody to see is scary, not just at first but every time. Yet you won’t grow if you don’t give yourself a chance.