In the past, we’ve paired people with partners to give and receive positive feedback. For the Shelter In Place 2020 edition, we won’t be doing that, but we welcome you to sign up with a partner and coordinate feedback on your own! See below for guidance on how to give and receive only positive feedback in a kind, thoughtful way.
Listen to this 3-minute audio clip to hear about expectations for partner communication and feedback sharing.
And listen to this 3-minute audio clip to hear about the writing process.
Writing & Process
- Each person writes for 10 minutes on the prompt. Set a timer. Go beyond that amount of time if you’re on a roll, but don’t send more than 10 minutes worth of writing to your partner. (The idea here is to put a limit on the amount of reading each person has to do.) DO write for the full 10 minutes, even if the end is just: And then, and then, and then nothing.
- This doesn’t need to turn into anything. On the other hand, maybe it will turn into something. We recommend putting your writings away and not revisiting them for a few months. They’ll look different to you three months from now and different again in a year.
- It’s totally great to change the pronouns or tense of the prompt (for instance, if it says, “You go to the store,” you can write a prompt about, “He was going to the store last week when…”) It’s also fine to completely deviate from the prompt, and not write about it at all, or write about whatever it brings to mind. The prompt is a place to start, not a strict rule.
- Go with your first instinct. It’s best to do the prompt as soon as you see it, or if you see the prompt at a time when you can’t write, try not to let your mind linger on it during the day. Thinking is not writing. Writing is writing.
- Be specific when you want to; using names is encouraged. All responses should be kept confidential between you and your partner.
- If your partner sends you their response first, write yours first without reading theirs beforehand.
- Try not to miss any days. If you happen to, it’s fine. Just get back on the horse and send two responses the next day. Same goes for feedback.
- We recommend sending your prompt as an attached document to your partner with the prompt in the title of the file. For instance: “mysistersaidjf.doc.” This will help you and your partner keep track of the prompts. We also recommend keeping each prompt to one email thread.
- When you’re writing, try to write as continuously as possible. You may have a thought in the middle, but try to keep the pen moving through it all.
- Only positive feedback is allowed.
- Every day, each person sends back the other’s prompt with ONLY positive feedback attached to it. We repeat because this is one of the coolest parts of the exercise. Feedback can be in comments/in line, and/or in a response paragraph/bullet points below the piece.
- Read the piece more than once. Once to experience it, and again to comment.
- Be generous with your feedback. Golden rule mega-applies here.
- Try to make it as specific as possible so the other person knows what affected you, what you got from the piece, what it made you think about. What sentences you really enjoyed, or which phrases, and why.
- Don’t lie or be dishonest to find positive feedback. Giving positive feedback can be as much of a practice as doing the writing. Really look for what you like.
- Do not offer your personal advice about the content (“She sounds like an asshole–break up with her!”) or respond to what might (or might not) be the writer’s personal life.
- Having trouble giving positive feedback? You might talk about the energy of the piece, or what you liked about the topic choice, or what surprised you, or made you think. Or, get really specific: “I loved your second sentence here,” or, “This part made me laugh.” You can also just bold or put ***s around your favorite parts.
- When responding to your partner’s piece, change the title to include your initials or some indicator. For instance: “mysistersaidCKcomments.doc.”
- A note that applies to both feedback and writing: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Here’s an example of Janet’s excellent positive, in-line feedback (per Caroline’s assessment) on Caroline’s lovely piece of writing (per Janet’s assessment) as guidance.
Your comments at the end of the piece might sound like this:
Some things I loved about this piece:
- the way lightness and heaviness of topic are woven throughout sometimes it alternates within one sentence or phrase. That’s awesome. The tone varies, the emotional tone
- the jewishness casually dispersed throughout all the sensory details. Not just visual but auditory and touch and other senses. Nice.
- The theme of distance and closeness from someone, setting hard rules and then breaking them, making exceptions for people, being young/being older yet still young, different places, carrying all these identities within ourselves at once
- This piece moves furiously and quickly forward. It carries me with it. I love it.
- The final sentence. Holy shit, that’s all there is, isn’t there, when someone isn’t making space for us??? Wonderful.