[Note: The audio uses the word “assess” but the National Writing Project (NWP) used the word “address” so I have adjusted the written content to align with NWP. The written content offers only a glimpse of the topic, not a transcription. This episode is about six minutes long.]
As a continuation of this discussion, I’d like to share with you an idea for how you can ask for input from individuals or groups. First, decide what level of input you truly want. Then ask the person or group to bless your piece, address your piece, or press your piece.
This bless, address, or press idea originates with the National Writing Project for teachers, which I heard about from my friend Kris. Here’s the basic idea.
If you want the reader to bless your work, you want encouragement for what is working, but not necessarily feedback on what’s not working. You ask for “bless” when you truly want your reviewer to only affirm, affirm, affirm.
When you ask the person to address your work, you ask for him or her to address one specific problem or concern. Focus in on something you’re unsure about—something that an outside reader’s response would help you sort out. Be specific. For example, should this person critique the organization or tone of your piece? Does the idea make sense or need more evidence to support what you’re saying, or more examples to be better understood?
When you ask for someone to press, you want the reviewer or editor to press into your work at all levels, offering constructive criticism to help the project improve in any way, from idea and organizational levels down to later concerns such as grammar and punctuation. Again, when someone presses your work, he can bless your work, as well as assess specific concerns you might throw out.
If you don’t ask for a specific level, you might be hoping for someone to address your work, giving high-level organizational input, only to see that person press your work, offering a sea of red ink focused on placement of commas and semicolons.
Writer: Thank the Reviewer
When you receive the reviewer’s input, remember this person has taken time to read and respond and provide the input you requested. Someone is investing in your writing life—someone believes in you. Thank them. Maybe take them out to lunch!
You can more easily ask for follow-up input on a revision when you have professional arrangements that include more give and take—for example, this kind of second-round review process could be built into a class, a writing group’s workshop process, a writing partnership, or a writing coach and client relationship.
Reviewer: Ask the Writer What Level Input to Provide
You can also use these three levels if you’ve been asked to give input. Confirm with the writer, “Do you want me to bless, address, or press your piece?” If the writer has never heard of these terms, you can introduce the ideas, providing a common language and understanding.
Do your best to stick with that level of feedback, remembering that good writing requires a level of risk—writers are putting themselves out there when they produce something and ask for input. So if you’re reviewing at the address or press level, remember to bless them, too. Like I’ve said before, show them where they shine.
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