I had a colleague who used to complain about that his students were reluctant to revise and edit. “I tell them what to do, but they don’t do it.”
Conferring with students is not “telling them what to do.” Conferring tells students what stood out for you as a reader, what question(s) the piece leaves with you, and a suggestion that the writer might take to make the piece stronger.
Students not only need choice in selecting topics, they also need the opportunity to make their own decisions as writers. Telling them “what to do” takes ownership of the piece away from the writer. Writers should be thinkers.