I don’t pretend to speak for every writer, but for most of us there comes a time when we want to share what we’ve made. To talk about it, to fan over it, to give it to someone else.
This is a good urge. I’m not talking about the urge to show off here, though that is natural and (sometimes) good in a number of ways, like when you’ve done something you’re particularly proud of and you want to show a friend.
Look here. Writing—art—is about connection. Maybe you do it alone with the lights off, but you’re still trying to speak, to communicate, with someone. Here’s something. The book is different for every reader, right? How are you going to know how it reads to someone else if you never share it?
Of course, there’s an etiquette to this. For example, it’s best not to ask a working writer, especially one who’s working as a writer, to read for you. It’s absolutely a gesture of respect to the writer involved, but it’s best to wait and see. Let him or her offer. Most often, they don’t have time, and many of them (okay, I) feel bad for saying no to you. If we’re really interested, we’ll ask for it.
Ultimately, I think the best place to share more than a couple hundred words is with your writers’ group, where you have all agreed to set aside time for each other’s work.
No, it doesn’t work for everyone. But sharing your writing is the fast track to improvement. Some people like to have just one critique partner. This works best at or near your own skill level—you learn together. I’ve done that, too, and found it an excellent way to grow as a writer. Is it hard, sometimes, to find beta-readers and others who will give you critique? Sure it is. But it’s worth it.
Share it. There’s no way it’s the worst thing in the world. Trust me.
Look here again. This is a lesson I need to learn every day. Your eyes are nobody else’s eyes. Everybody reads a different thing, even if it’s the same thing. If you can reciprocate, do it, and take the work you’re presented with seriously, even if it’s not your particular cup of tea. It’s as important to the person who shared with you as your work is to you. They’re as excited about it as you are about sharing yours. It’s a gift: “Look at my naked soul. Look what I’m excited about.”
Just keep that in mind.