Grant Me This: Some Moolah

Post Date: June 30th, 2012

Boldly ask for what you wonder if you truly deserve. That must be the writer’s mantra in requesting funding and submitting work.

Image found here

Just sent off an application to the Elizabeth George Foundation asking for a grant to fund writing time. I have better credentials this time–more awards, more milestones reached–but you always wonder, How dare I ask for money? Just sweat it out, honey. Work a 15-20 hour day and get ‘er done. 

But artists have to get over their fears and guilt and self-hatred. If we want time to write, it must be either found at some expense to ourselves or funded by external sources–those are our options. While we all love the stories of those authors who lose sleep and friendships and sanity to write beyond the workday and commute and cleaning and cooking and supposed exercising, it’s no way to live.

I recently saw Robert Olen Butler post on Facebook about his 14-hour marathon writing days and felt inadequate. (Well, in the face of his writing I will always feel inadequate, but that’s another post.) Then I thought, I can’t do that long and survive. Even if writing was my day job, I couldn’t persist longer than eight hours of writing without developing some helpful addiction.

I have found that the first and early drafts of my novel were do-able with a stolen hour a day and many hours stolen on the weekends. But there comes a time when deep reading and focus is needed beyond an hour a day, and it’s very hard to unravel a novel and re-knit it with your brain unable to dive into it deep on a regular basis.

So I need time, which means money. I don’t care what the free culture says, what those who hate their day jobs say, those who resent artists for asking to do what they love all day–I say fund the arts and the artists.

Lately there’s been a massive outcry and debate over Emily White’s confession that she’s never bought music–“I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With,” and it’s raised a whole host of responses, the best of which, I hear, is David Lowery’s. His argument of why we ought to pay for the arts, specifically songs, but I’ll extrapolate that to movies, books, plays, paintings, sculpture, dance–strikes right at what I see as American myth: that artists ought to sweat it out beyond the regular work day and somehow make beautiful things to entertain everyone else. If you (and by you I mean all of us) want to spend any time with entertainment, then don’t just nod to the artist, thank an artist, but pay the artist. We need tips, we need patrons, we need grants. We need moolah as much as anyone else.

I have no more wisdom than this tonight except to keep applying for several more grants and see what happens. For women, check out A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Gift of Freedom–a pretty amazing opportunity. A great storehouse of information is housed at Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers website and in her weekly e-newsletters, so start surfing there to see what options are available.

And don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re not planning on wasting that money, if you’ve paid dues and plan to pay more, if you work damn hard and you’re serious about your craft, that’s enough to ask for some of the money that’s out there.


  1. DF says:

    When I told a friend of the family I wanted to be a writer, he tried his best to dissuade me. “You have to be ready to sponge off of others, and sooner or later, sell out everyone you know.” That was enough to put my writing into deep freeze for a decade. I was nineteen. Why did I listen to him? He was a published novelist himself.

  2. Maybe he subscribed to the scarcity model and didn’t want competition? Any writer whose speech is, “Don’t bother” is suspect to me. But I had some serious naysayers when I was 19, too. And one major one in my thirties…but bless Doris, there was remedy and hope from her tutelage that lasted long after!