Fund Your Writing Projects: How to Make Grant Writing Work for You

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth it to write grants, you have good reason to do so.  The amount of money awarded in a writer’s grant is usually small and grant writing can be time-consuming. You have to research the granting agency, study the application and spend hours crafting your responses to hard questions about what you want, why you want it and how you are going to realize your project.

Wouldn’t it be better to spend this time actually writing?

Sometimes yes. Before I decide to apply for a grant, I ask two questions: Is this the best use of my time right now? Are there benefits to the process of researching, writing and submitting this grant regardless of the outcome? These benefits might include:

  1. Getting Out There: Your grant application will be reviewed by at least one but usually several writers who will look seriously at your writing, your project and your aspirations. They will know more about you, the writer, than most of your friends. Even if you don’t get the grant, you may well run into these possibly influential people again if they publish or promote your writing.
  2. A Deadline for Your Plan: The grant application deadline forces you to get your idea down on paper, which transforms it from a daydream into tangible reality. Even if you don’t get the money, you now have a plan.
  3. Testing the Water: Not all daydreams are meant to be realized. Sometimes an idea is better left on the cocktail napkin. The process of grant writing lets you test an idea to see if it is really something to invest time and money into.
  4. Practice Asking for Help: Most human beings hate asking for help. The 2-year-old inside us still likes to say, “I did it myself.” The truth is no successful person is ever an island. We need other people to help us realize our artistic aspirations and they need us to help them. Writing a grant says to the world “I want this, my idea is worth supporting and I need help.” This can be scary and humbling but it is good practice for all the other asking your career will demand of you.

This month’s assignment? Make a list of all the grants you might apply for and rate each grant based on four factors: how much money you could receive, how easy the application is, how prestigious the award is and how useful the grant is to your writing career. A worthwhile grant should get a high rating in at least 2 of these categories. If it won’t help you significantly, is low paying, has little prestige and has a time-consuming application, you’d probably be better off writing, instead.

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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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