Earlier this summer I participated in an online writing class which turned out to be a very rewarding experience. I completed six essays on a variety of topics and in a variety of formats, connected with six other amazing writers and got the benefit of their feedback on my work, and got some vital insights about ways I could improve my writing. It's been a long time since I put my writing up for grabs. Sure, I write blog posts all the time, but since you all are such a forgiving group those posts are like chatty letters to a friend rather than a piece of writing up for critical review. I won't lie and say it wasn't a little scary to write something completely different and then put it online for my classmates to read and critique. But luckily my fellow writers were very supportive, our group leader was gentle, and we all learned a great deal.
Something I missed growing up as an only child was the opportunity to have a critic, someone not afraid to tell you when your outfit looks dorky or your haircut is lame. I'm sure those of you with siblings are saying, "Opportunity?? It's more like a pain in the a#@!!" But, taken (and given) in the right spirit, an outside opinion can prove invaluable as you're learning to navigate the wider world.
Same with the world of writing, I think. Anne Lamott refers to her "second opinion" readers as "midwives," who bring her best work to life. "Theoretically I could do it alone," she says, "but it sure makes it easier to have people helping." I know that I appreciated the writers I worked with this summer, and will not hesitate to seek outside opinions whenever I'm able.