“I’m a grant writer,” a statement I've become hesitant to make because I tend to get one of three reactions.
Reaction 1 is a glazed over look from people who tried to write a grant once (usually a five page mini grant that was not funded) and hated every sentence of the experience. I imagine these people see me through mutant lenses as if I, and my large egg-shaped head, recently stumbled out of a broken silver spaceship in the New Mexico desert.
Reaction 2 is a look of superiority from people who’ve written one more grants and have been successfully funded (almost always five page mini grants). It resembles the knowing-simpatico look that a firefighter gets from the guy who put out a grease fire on his neighbor’s stove, it is the “I can do that” sort of look.
Reaction 3 is a look that is at once rosy charm and mystical attraction. People who never tried to write a grant may give me this look. These are well-intentioned, but uninformed, people who loved English courses and who once received an A+ on a paper about their kitten “Boots” (that A+ given by a cat loving English professor who was later committed for living with 123 feral cats and a mummified Pekinese named Boots). I imagine these folks see grant writers a technical writing Ernest Hemingway living an exotic lifestyle. They can imagine themselves drinking red wine in Pamplona until dawn.
Grant writing is real writing, mind you, though a bit stilted and constrained in style and form. But there are no kitten stories to be written. Most grants are written about programs, the minutia of which is adequate substitution for cerebral Novocain. I read once that some people having brain surgery did not need general anesthetic; I surmised they were forced to read poorly written grant narratives before being wheeled to the operating room thereby dulling their senses to a dramatic extent.
I do what most writers do, I wrestle with my narratives until a deadline forces me to give them up. I get stuck and am too close to the narrative to make sense of it. I curse at my edited copy, and, I drink to my editor’s continued good health. The narrative always pins me because it is never quite finished.
There is a 4th reaction, that of utter disinterest, like the young woman years ago at a club who when told what I do turned up her nose and asked me what kind of car I drove. The next time I am asked what I do, I shall make something up that squelches conversation, like life insurance salesman or telephone solicitor.
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Photo Credit - Brian Lary