Wednesday, January 10, 2007

could i please have just a tiny bit of money?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on this grant application that, if I got it, would give me $50,000, meaning that I could go to Malaysia and find out once and for all how people go about renting bicycles there. Pretty sweet, huh?

Except the application process is really, really involved (as it should be for $50,000)—like applying to a college that only admits one person. It’s hard to get my hopes up, and yet, if I don’t get my hopes up, how can I write a convincing application?

I’m learning a bit about myself in the process. For example, hard work is sort of its own reward. Not as nice as $50,000, but it does feel good to pick away at the essay questions and think, Look at me, applying for a grant. I must be one of those hardworking writers who puts her work out in the world. I feel limber and muscular (in the strictly metaphorical sense, since the process involves a lot of sitting in front my computer).

I’m also being reminded of something my therapist could have told you, which is that I’m bad at asking for things. I know I already have a pretty great life, and there’s part of me that thinks it would be unfair to try to make it even better. But unfair to whom? It’s not like I’m trying to make my life better by stealing food from orphans. I’m trying to make my life better by asking for money to write a book, money that has already been set aside for just that purpose.

Yet, when I sit down to write my essays, they basically come out like this:

Dear Grant People,

So, I’m writing this book about some things I think are deeply important, and yet I don’t think this book will be very important. Could I please have just a tiny bit of money so I can create a tiny, insubstantial thing?

Sincerely,

Cheryl

I have the life of a pretty privileged person and the not-so-privileged attitude of a girl, and the combination somehow adds up to me thinking I should never ask for anything. I keep waiting to have the courage of my convictions. Other people’s books have changed my life—why don’t I think mine could change theirs?

I could give you a long list of reasons why, but I’ll save it for another post.

7 comments:

Claire said...

Do you have any info on past winners of this grant? That can be a good way to get a bead on what they're looking for.

I'm not naturally inclined to promote myself either, but it sounds worth getting over for $50g.

Best of luck and don't forget to proofread!

Cheryl said...

I actually think they're looking for a more accomplished, ambitious version of me. So I just have to make myself sound like that version of myself.

Schrodinger's Kitten said...

I can give you 5 bucks - will that buy me a word?

Claire said...

Reading what winners wrote with their grant money (or what they did to write what they wrote- bring on the dustcover!) would be another good thing to do. Might give the more accomplished, more ambitious approach some more specificity, an angle.

don't mind me if this is all old hat to you...

Cheryl said...

C: I'm actually sort of familiar with the world of grants and foundations as a result of my day job, but somehow applying for money for myself is a whole different beast--so I appreciate the tips.

S: Yes. [That was your one word.]

Jamie said...

I think the combination of your humble girl-ness and serious ambition probably means that you wrote an well-thought-out and inspiring application that will impress whatever committee makes the selection. Your letter makes me laugh, but your book has changed my life in its own way -- so there ya go.

Cheryl said...

Aw, shucks. I wish you were on the grant committee!