The Power of Listening
"Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else."
— Margaret Wheatley
Every once in a while, you may be fortunate enough to have your child share their writing with you. (It may not happen often, but when it does, it's a beautiful thing!) In the event that your child reads their story to you or lets you read some of their published writing, here are some tips for fostering a deeper connection. Because we use the Amherst Writing Method in all of our classes, we recommend that you incorporate this philosophy into your feedback, as well.
The Amherst Writing Method was developed by the visionary writer and teacher Pat Schneider. The underlying philosophy is that everyone is a writer with their own unique voice. We find our voice by writing our story and having it heard.
The way the Amherst Writing Method creates safe space is to treat all writing (no matter how personal) as a work of creative fiction. This helps us focus on the beauty and strength of the language without invading the writer’s privacy or trying to “fix,” “help” or give advice.
It is through writing that we clarify and resolve our own problems. The very act of writing is an act of self-instruction and self-discovery. Through the writing process, we can trust that each writer will be guided to their own wisdom.
Most importantly, the Amherst Writing Method insists that all feedback be positive, focused on the power, strength, and authenticity of the writing. We listen for the words, ideas, thoughts and feelings that resonate for us and share our appreciation, as in “I loved how the writer described the _________," or "I loved the line about the _________."
We like to listen to the writing the same way we listen to music, letting the beauty and power of words wash over us and then sharing what we loved. The greatest gift we can give another person is to be fully present to them and to listen with an open heart.
In short, every writer needs be heard, validated and supported. The more we can acknowledge a young person’s strengths, the more they will be able to trust in their ability as writers. The more that they trust themselves, the more they will enjoy writing and the stronger their writing will become.
Until young people are more confident in their writing skills, we do not recommend entering any writing contests, as the critical treatment of writing in a contest—so much like school—can reactivate the very "inner critic" we're trying to free them from.
Finally, if your child doesn't want to share their writing with you, it's okay. Don’t take it personally. A lot of what the kids write about is very deep and personal, more like a journal entry than an essay. At the same time, you can be reassured that this kind of expressive writing fosters exceptional emotional intelligence, which is the foundation of all professional and personal success. It is through the process of writing that we are able to make sense of our lives, to figure out who we are and to make conscious choices about who we want to become.
Our hope is that by the time your child graduates from high school, they will know and trust themselves enough to become truly visionary leaders and change-makers—which is exactly what the world needs most! Together we can change the world: one person, one voice, and one story at a time.