Thursday, September 8, 2011

Script Writing vs. Grant Writing

I attended a script writing seminar recently in Los Angeles. I went because I wanted to see what writers from another genre talk about and I glad I attended. It was fascinating and thrilling to be with a group of authors. Grant writers tend to be reclusive folks and don’t tend to flock together. One of the authors presenting on one of the three panels quipped, “You probably became writers to get away from people, but I hate to tell you, being a script writer means you’ll have to work with people all the time.”
Two things occurred to me when I heard her say that.  First, that I love writing because it is solitary. I enjoy being alone and it’s probably why I enjoy the solitude of the mountains so much. I do my best writing when I am not bothered by people making demands on me. I write best when my mind is uncluttered, with the TV off, the phone silenced, and no event to prepare myself to attend.
The second thing that occurred to me is that I used to have a naive solitary vision of what a grant writer does, sits blissfully writing brilliant narratives in a cedar-paneled alcove perched overlooking the ocean. Ahhh… well, we’re allowed our little fantasies, right?
Alas, reality intruded on my vision, just like script writers, there is a lot of interaction with people during the grant process.  You must talk to people to obtain a contract. You must engage with people to plan, sometimes a lot of people. You must engage with people to review and revise the proposal. The end of the process leaves you alone again, grinding out the final proposal; but it’s a brief interlude, and actually only a prelude to starting the process all over again. Before the glow of submittal leaves your rosy cheeks, you are right back into meeting with people again!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not misanthropic. I enjoy people’s company and seek it out when I want it. But there is something magical for me in the solitary writing process that is necessary and wonderful at the same time. Passing time within the written word, within the conceptualization and the phrasing brings joy to me that non-writers can’t understand, especially people who thrive on conversation the way I thrive on composition.
A comical statement by another author at the seminar stuck in my mind, “If you want to be a script writer and you didn’t come from a dysfunctional family, I feel sorry for you.” By this she meant that a dysfunctional background gives a writer knowledge that is useful for producing fictional narratives, because they’re always written around solving a problem. Dysfunctional families have lots of problems to solve.
I think the benefits of dysfunctional experience applies to grant writing. Grants are often written to solve a problem too; but instead of coming from a dysfunctional family, a grant writer benefits if they have worked in a dysfunctional organization. I have that in spades (one public organization I worked for went bankrupt [for the record, I was not the cause]). I’ve seen every aspect of organizational management done wrong, so it’s easier for me to envision a better way and describe it in my narratives.
I was pleased to learn at the seminar that my background blesses me in both genres (don’t worry, I am not telling tales out of school, my family won’t argue the point). Perhaps I am destined to write a script one day: who knows where a writer’s path will lead?

If You Liked This Post, You Will Enjoy:
Grant Writing is No Mystery
Grant Writing: Fact or Fiction?

(For the Record - Consultant Derek Link authored this post, so the Grant Goddess' family should neither remove her from their Christmas shopping list nor "unfriend" her on Facebook.)

Photo Credit - Craig Purdum


Jeff Geiger said...

Great post -- as a fiction writer who came to grants later, I was struck by how many people told me: "This isn't fiction writing, Jeff. This is a whole different thing." Three years and some change later, I can say I'm struck more by their similarities than differences. Matching a funder with a request is not so different than matching a short story with the right magazine, and the importance of hook, clarity of prose, and structural coherence transfer seamlessly. Nice to know you also have interest in the realm of fiction. Keep me posted on your work!

Esther James said...

What a creative, interesting and from-the-heart post! I love how you have chosen to make lemonade out of lemons by taking what you've learned from working for dysfunctional nonprofits and applying that insight to grant proposals.

Jeff's comment on the transferability of fiction writing to grant proposal writing is also right on point. I like his analogy of funder-proposal to magazine-story.

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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.