Monday, 20 December 2010

How's Your Hearing?

One of my favourite sayings is Positive People Planning with Purpose.  It sums up the qualities I think main characters need to have and I frequently trot it out in class.  So it was a bit odd when a student said, I've heard you say that for ages, but it's only today I've got what you mean. 

I've written about what PPP with P means before, but what I want to write about today is how interesting it was that she'd heard it lots of times, but hadn't heard it.  She hadn't understood how it applied to her work.  

Of course it's much easier to hear things that are said about other people's work - that's one of the reasons workshopping is so helpful.  I realised recently that my teachers back in school had been telling me lots of good stuff about how to write an essay, but I hadn't heard it until I was in the position of talking to students about essay writing, at which point a lot of things clicked.

It's hard to hear properly at the beginning. There's so much other clutter - nervousness on getting feedback, defensiveness, secret belief that you're brilliant for starters, and it could be complicated by your previous experiences at school and home.  Sometimes I've had to stop workshop discussions when I can see that the writer isn't hearing the feedback properly. It's amazing how often the writer has only heard the negative comments and not the positive.  

So learn to listen.  Sit quietly.  Try to be neutral at the start of a feedback session or class.  And then learn how to hear.

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