2 minutes reading time (385 words)

The Art of Listening in Workshop

Listening is an important practice in wVw workshops. Intense, deep listening may be the best contribution we make to one another’s writing. We do not listen for, that is we do not listen for errors, mistakes, ommissions, excess, awkwardness. We do not correct, judge, evaluate or rank. We listen with the writer in mind. We listen to the words, images, music of language. As listeners, we actively participate in the creation of a work of art.

Listening is an active skill, whereas hearing is passive, listening is something that we have to work at -- it's a relationship with sound. And yet it's a skill that none of us are taught. For example, have you ever considered that there are listening positions, places you can listen from? Here are two of them:

Reductive listening is listening "for." It reduces everything down to what's relevant and it discards everything that's not relevant.

Expansive listening, on the other hand, is listening "with," not listening "for." It's got no destination in mind -- it's just enjoying the journey.
—Julian Treasure

Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on.
—Eudora Welty                                         

Writing that has newly come from the pen of a writer should be listened to with care. New writing is as fragile and raw as a newborn and should be treated as respectfully, as tenderly.

•    Do not make overt or subtle suggestions for change.
•    Do not tell one’s own story, ie. This reminds me when I…
•    Do not question
•    Do not express doubt or disbelief
•    Do not describe writing as derivative, overly familiar or clichéd
•    Do not express dislike or disinterest in narrator, voice or character
•    Do not respond with like unless you point to particular words, phrases, actions, etc.

What is helpful is to listen to the writer, then give back what you remember, what stays with you. Each writer is finding his or her way to voice. It cannot be coerced, and it cannot be given form or shape by anyone else.
--adapted from Pat Schneider

To ‘listen’ another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.
– Douglas Steere

Back to School
Featured Writer - RoseMarie Navarra


Already Registered? Login Here
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment