Grant proposals. Why I hate them I mean love them.
I don't know about other parts of the world, but for writers in Canada right now (especially writers in Ontario) — it's grant writing season.
Not-so-secret confession: I never look forward to putting together grant proposals for my writing. I dread it. I put it in my calendar months in advance, I send myself little alert emails to get me mentally prepared for it, and still, when the time comes, I put it off until the last minute.
Ugh. Of course I absolutely love receiving a grant, if I'm lucky enough to get one. I know that I couldn't have written my book without them. I love grants! I am so grateful for my country’s Arts Councils, at all levels: Federal! Provincial! Municipal!
Then why is it so damn hard to get myself to sit down and write a grant proposal with pleasure? I'll tell you why. Because it feels inherently wrong to promise anybody anything about my work before I've actually written it.
I haven't finished my book yet, so I know that it can change at any moment. I am writing with faith and imagination, like I'm holding a dowsing rod. Who knows where these characters are going to end up? I also know that the moment I actually think critically about what I'm doing, or begin to articulate “what I’m trying to do,” I can break the spell.
A grant proposal asks you to break the spell. Right? It asks you to title your book and to explain the content and theme and structure of your project with certainty - right down to the page count that it will be when it is finished.
Seriously? Not to mention that you know that your unfinished writing is going to necessarily be scrutinized, criticized, judged and compared to other people's work. Isn't this exactly what you try NOT to do to your work, every other day of the year?
After spending time working on my project description, I always feel invigorated and re-inspired. I say things like, "Hey, this book is going to be GOOD!"
I’ve learned that it can actually be useful to spend hours writing about your own work in order to convince someone else that what you're doing is amazing, worthwhile and sophisticated. Because ultimately, if you believe in your project and you write that belief into your grant proposal, you will end up convincing yourself that your project is amazing. And I think that always makes the proposal writing experience worth it, in the end.
Even if you’re not lucky enough to be one of the chosen recipients this year, your writing will benefit from that supervitamin of belief.
Writing a grant proposal demands that you treat your work with respect. You write about it as though it deserves funding. Which means that it deserves to be written. And that means that you're going to write it, baby. You're going to write it.