Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are You Experiencing Writers’ Block?

It’s one thing to be a hobby blogger and get writer's block, it is quite another to have a large grant contract and have writer’s block. Writer's block on a grant contract gives me high anxiety. Before panic sets in, I leave the narrative, sit myself down, and try to decide what it is that has me stuck.

Writer’s block for grant writers is not the same thing as it is for a fiction writer. Fiction writers are creating a story from whole cloth while grant writers – usually – are writing based on tangible facts or at the very least creating project designs based on current realities.  This makes is easier to identify the source of the block.

Whenever I experience writer’s block it is usually based on one or more of several things; for example, a lack of facts, a lack of understanding of the RFP, or a lack of conversation with the client about their plans.

Lack of facts can kill your writing flow early on in the process. Most grants start with the Needs Section and that’s where you usually have the most current, well-sourced facts. If you have trouble getting needs data from the client, which is sometimes the case, you need to look online for relevant facts about their needs. You may need demographic information, unemployment information, crime statistics, or you may need to do a Google search for current news about the topic. You may find that your client does not keep good records about what they do so it can be difficult to make a case for need. In those cases you’re going to need to supplement their data.

You’re going to get writer’s block if you don’t fully understand the RFP; or worse, you’ll write a narrative that doesn’t address it. There are times when I read an RFP and I think to myself, “who wrote this?” Sometimes the sections seem to be asking me to describe the same thing over and over again. In these cases, it’s usually my lack of careful reading that is the issue. I need to go back to the RFP and use my knowledge of grant writing to decide what the agency wants in each section even if it sounds the same, because it certainly is not the same to them. Generally there is an unfolding of the program plan right from the abstract through the evaluation plan which is logical and creates an orderly description of the program. If the RFP is confusing, lean on your knowledge about how a grant is written in a general sense that will help you unravel mysterious RFP’s. You should also review the scoring rubric to find clues about what to include in each section.

Failure to adequately discuss the project design with a client will leave you frustrated in the writing, and make your client frustrated when it comes to reviewing a draft. If you’re stuck when you begin writing goals and objectives, re-engage with the client immediately before you trek off in a southerly direction when they’re expecting that you’ll be headed north. They are the ones who have to implement what you’re writing so be sure that you’ve had enough discussion with them to write with authority.

A host of other things can cause writers’ block that have nothing to do with the grant. These can include lack of sleep, poor diet, personal drama, etc. Since I am neither Dr. Oz nor Dr. Phil, I won’t wade into those topics. Writer’s block can be stressful for a grant writer. When you’re feeling blocked, stop trying to force the narrative, grab a cup of coffee, leave the computer, and head for your quiet spot to sort out what is creating it.

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.