When I began writing in 2010 I sat at my computer blissfully unaware of gerunds, queries, things to avoid on page one, and the whole publishing process. I wrote because it was a dream I'd had for a long time, one that I finally tackled when my best friend called me and told me she was writing a book. I'm grateful for the ignorance at the start of my writing life because it let me explore freely and focus on getting ideas and stories on the page.
That said, once I attended my first writing conference in 2011 (Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers WIFYR) I realized I had a ton to learn. I needed to hone my craft. I needed to learn grammar. And, I needed feedback from people who didn't already know (and love) me. What I needed was a critique group.
Five members of my WIFYR class created one. And my writing improved significantly. Over time though, we've gotten to be such good friends that we've become cheerleaders and beta readers, but not so much critique partners. So when I moved to North Carolina where SCBWI is strong, I joined Capital Eyes, a critique group that meets once a month just fifteen minutes from my house. Introverted me was nervous to meet new people, even kindred writer people like myself, but I didn't have anything to worry about.
No only have I made really good local writing friends, but I've also been able to pool from all of their knowledge and grow my craft even more. So if you're nervous about getting your writing out there, about others reading it and possibly NOT liking it, I would encourage you to still take that step and get outside feedback. Join a local or online group. Reach out and let yourself be vulnerable and watch your writing self develop. You just might make some great friends in the process. And you just might write the next big thing. Besides, you need someone to thank in your acknowledgments page.