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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: Lists

Day 192: 7 Tips for Writing Better Grants

My first real job out of college (aside from my brief and miserable stint as a hotel sales coordinator) was as a development associate for Arts Midwest, one of the best arts organizations of all time, ever. In my role, I got to write a lot of grants. And as I developed my own art, I became more and more immersed in the fund-seeking world.

Recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to participate in the other side of the grant world—as a grant reviewer. It’s been an eye-opening and highly educational experience. For those of you out there trying to raise money to support the beautiful and world-changing artistic work you do, here are seven things you can do to make your grant applications stronger:

1. Describe your project like you’d describe it to your parents’ neighbors. There’s no use in being artistically ambiguous or pretentious in your project description. The reader wants to understand what you’re going to do, how you’ll do it and why it’s important. And they want to understand it quickly.

2. Don’t wing it. If you’re not sure how to complete a component of the application (a timeline, a line-item budget, etc.), do some research (Google). The world wide web is filled with examples, so go out and find them. You’ll start to see the differences between the good examples and the bad examples, so model your work after the good ones.

3. Read the questions. Then answer them. It’s as simple as that. If you find yourself writing the same answer for question 7 that you wrote for question 5, you missed a detail somewhere. Go back, figure out the differences between the questions and be specific in your responses.

4. Ask someone to proofread your work. Remember that friend in college who was super nit-picky about commas? Bribe her to help you out. If you’re the only person who reads your proposal, you’re 97% likely to miss a silly error. (I’m almost positive that’s a real statistic.) Anything you can do to make your proposal clear and easy to read will improve your chances.

5. Demonstrate capability. The reader assumes that if you can plan your project, you can (probably) pull it off. So if the application asks how you’ll evaluate the success of your work, don’t say you’ll figure it out later. Make a plan and describe it.

6. Craft and edit your artist statement. Your statement doesn’t just describe what you do; it contextualizes it. It should give the reader insight into your creative brain and make them want to experience your unique creations. Why are you making art? What inspires you? It’s okay to get a little cerebral, but keep your parents’ neighbors in mind. Be brief and clear.

7. Take it one step at a time. Grant applications can be long and a little overwhelming. Give yourself ample time to read the guidelines and the questions before launching into your narrative. It’s easy to separate the thoughtful proposals from the ones written at the last minute.

Day 155: Six Reasons to be Weird

Being a weirdo is a-okay. Here are six reasons why:

1. As long as your weirdness doesn’t extend into severe social anxiety or obscene outbursts (in which case, practice taking some deep breaths before you panic), it can help others feel more comfortable around you. Everyone has a freak flag; they’re often just nervous to fly it. You admitting your fascination with flightless birds may be just what your conversation partner needs in order to let their guard down and connect with you (perhaps even over mutual avian interests).

2. Weirdos get a free pass to have more fun. Love moonwalking down the street to the music coming out of other people’s windows? Just do it. It’ll only take once for you to get a “weird” label and then you can street dance as often as you want without anyone bothering you.

3. According to John Manley of Fast Company, your inner weirdo helps you get ahead at work. His recent article also includes some wonderful commentary about “declaring a minor” in life—a weird or not weird avocation that keeps you stimulated and fosters your propensity for adventurous creativity.

4. In extreme situations, weirdos always prevail. Stranded on an island? The weirdo knows which plants taste like pizza (and won’t kill you). Accidentally erased your harddrive while trying to watch videos of cute cats? The weirdo will have you back in business in three minutes flat.

5. As my mother always says, “to be interesting, you have to be interested.” Showing interest in something unique helps define you as an interesting human being. Showing interest in others unique interests doubles (maybe even triples) your interesting factor and additionally makes you extremely pleasant to be around. Everybody likes a weirdo who asks good questions.

6. Because of your wide-ranging weird interests, you’re able to connect the dots on disparate concepts and come up with creative (albeit not always plausible) solutions. When successful, this ability not only helps you at work (see number 3), it gives you greater appreciation for the community knowledge-pool. You’re more likely to be able to capitalize on someone else’s weird skill when you have a few of your own.

Woman with Eat More Kale sweatshirt

One of my weird family members with a squash head named “Turkita” over Thanksgiving. We clearly had no fun. 

Day 138: What to Expect from Your Job

In my three decades on Earth, I feel really lucky to have had many different jobs in many different fields. I’ve been a grant writer, catering server, adjunct professor, administrative assistant, marketing manager, barista, hotel sales coordinator, yoga instructor, writer, production manager, cleaning lady, lighting designer, babysitter, stage manager, DJ (not so great at the DJing, as it turns out), program coordinator, sales associate and research assistant. Right now, I’m a contract content producer (and I love it).

My history gives me what I’d call a pretty well-rounded perspective on what makes a good job. So here are eight things you should expect from your place of employment:

1. Challenges. Tiny ones, quick ones, long ones and gigantic ones. If you’re not being challenged, your brain is probably dying.

2. Like-minded people. People who understand your satisfaction with a beautifully organized Google doc (for example), and who can empathize with you when things aren’t going quite right. These people keep you grounded.

3. Different-minded people. People who are able to look at a situation from angles you didn’t even know existed and pull metaphorical rabbits out of metaphorical hats. These people keep you on your toes.

4. A way for you to move around and not sit or stand in the same place all day long. Whether it’s a nice outdoor space or a mobile indoor situation in which you can work wherever feels productive, good jobs let you move.

5. Good tea and coffee. And some healthy snacks. Simple pleasures make a big difference.

6. Quiet space where you can focus without distraction. It’s important that you’re able to plow through a problem or a project uninterrupted when you need to.

7. Distractions. Being able to adapt and switch gears based on the needs of the people around you is an important skill that will serve you in all areas of life. You might as well hone it at your job.

8. Laughter. You should be skeptical of anyone who wants to be serious for eight or more hours straight. Human beings are built to laugh.

Happy jobbing.

Day 133: Incredible Creatures

Here are some reasons why humans are incredible creatures:

We are adaptable and scrappy.

We can remove ourselves from our own realities and imagine how another person feels within theirs.

We are both mind-blowingly strong and incredibly fragile. We can steel ourselves through extreme turmoil and duress, but still fall to pieces over a couple of words.

Our brains can change themselves based on how we use them.

We love learning.

Our bonds with each other are so strong that we’ll put another’s safety, wellbeing and even life ahead of our own.

Even though we can be ruiners, we are also fixers, savers and solvers.

Our changeability allows us to be cruel and indifferent, and still learn to be compassionate and kind.

We want to know what’s out there, so we go out there.

We can always be worse and always be better.

We are logical, whimsical, romantic, dogmatic, sensitive, practical, strategic, spontaneous, naïve, deliberate, careless and brilliant. All at the same time.

Bittersweet by Brian AndreasStorypeople by Brian Andreas

Day 124: The Bucket List

I’ve never made a bucket list before. Now seems like a good time.

  1. Make an extraordinarily good meal from scratch, only out of things I grew myself.
  2. Give up cheddar cheese for one week (could coincide with #1, since I don’t know how to grow cheddar).
  3. Get a tattoo.
  4. Get the tattoo removed.
  5. Find a place where there’s no man-made noise—no cars, machines, airplanes, phones, kids, etc., and just listen.
  6. Name a cat The Freshmaker. It doesn’t have to be my cat.
  7. Learn a foreign language or truly revive that high school French.
  8. Make a grand gesture to the planet that somehow makes it better.
  9. Pay off my credit card (figuring this is a good before-I-die goal).
  10. Teach a kid something really, really cool.
  11. Come up with some better and/or more specific long-term goals.
  12. Finish Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
  13. Meet Oliver Sacks.
  14. Watch the sunrise.
  15. Get up before the sunrise in order to watch it live.
  16. Smile and remember.

That’s all for now. What’s on your bucket list?

Erin's catsThese are my friend Erin’s cats. If they didn’t already have names, one of them would be The Freshmaker.