Fund Your Writing Projects: Show Me the Money

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg 

How do writers earn money? Usually from pay they receive by the hour, by the word or by the book. Are there other ways for writers to earn money to support their writing endeavors? That’s the question this column will answer over the next months.

To get started, make a list of all your writing projects, large and small. Include every project, especially the ones in that folder marked “too weird to consider” or “save for when I win the lottery.”

Next, add to your list the ways you want to “upgrade” your professional writing life. Do you need to attend a spendy writing conference to meet agents and mingle with the literati? Does your website need an overhaul?

To realize all these possibly outrageous projects, what are the actions you need to take? Make a list. To write the historical novel about 19th-century Russian royalty, you may need a research trip to St. Petersburg. Or to finish the memoir, you want a month at a writing retreat. Or to bring the first draft of your play to its final form, you need to hire a writing coach and stage a public reading.

On your list can be things like: to launch my career at a national level, I need a professional website; to get more gigs on radio, I need a voice coach; to attend the writing conference, I need $1,000 bucks.

Write down the dreams and write down the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Do you hear a mean voice in your head that sounds like a stingy 2nd-grade teacher? “Voice lessons?! Who do you think you are?” “A research trip to where?! You’ve got to be kidding!” Thank Ms. Parsimonious for sharing and let her know that her tightfisted ways will be welcome when you prepare your budget on the grant application.

Now look at your list. Many writers have found grants to pay for endeavors similar to the ones on your list. Some skeptics might ask: “Wouldn’t it be easier to work a few extra gigs and pay for this myself?” Sometimes yes. Grant researching and writing takes time-a limited resource. In future columns, we explore how to decide whether writing a grant is the best use of your time.

For now, revel in the adventures on your list and start your research. Check your local, state and national arts association websites and click “Grants.” Find out who provides cash (or time in the case of residencies) to support your writing. For a list of websites I recommend, visit my list at www.gigirosenberg.com.

Money experiment this month: Notice the ways you spend money, from the necessary to the frivolous. How do you decide what to buy? When you donate to a charity, how do you decide which worthy cause gets your bucks? Make some notes. This study of your own spending will help you later on when we explore how grantors decide who gets support for that outrageous writing project.
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Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, teacher and occasional performer of edgy, comic monologues on motherhood, relationships and the existential nature of being. Her essays and how-to articles have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review, Cycle California! Magazine and Parenting (forthcoming).  “The Hanukkah Bush,” her radio commentary, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She coaches writers on how to read in public and teaches regional and national workshops on “Grant Writing for Success.”

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