The Kübler-Ross grief grant cycle

Jan 09 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

I have a confession to make. I actually kinda like writing grants.

Before you immediately think "Dude, you should seek treatment", let me explain. I don't like the deadlines, the number of grants we have to write (each with their own format) or moving target of satisfying the panel. I do, however, like taking an idea and "selling" it in a way that makes someone who has never thought about what you are doing say "I want to see how this ends up." I think it's what we all like about what we do - the ability to excite people about our ideas and projects. If you can't explain what you are doing to someone and get them excited or interested, you're in the wrong business. Seriously, you're wasting your time.

Grants are the written embodiment of this pursuit. When you are writing a manuscript you have the results and you are reporting what you find in the best way you can. With a grant, you are selling the potential of something, which requires you to convince others of your ideas in the relative absence of data (even though you now have to have half a project done in order to get it funded, but that's a topic for another day). It requires a different way of writing and it's something I take a bit of perverse pleasure in.

That's not to say that the process isn't arduous. It is. But I have come to see it in terms of the The Kübler-Ross steps of grief:

Shock: Holy shit, that deadline is coming up fast! Is it that time of year already?

Denial: I still have plenty of time though, I can get a few things done before I really get into the writing.

Anger: How did I let myself wait so long?

Bargaining: This is the part where you figure out how to structure the grant. Which part do I emphasize for this particular grant opportunity? How ambitious do I make it? What can I fit into the budget without looking greedy? What personnel do I need to complete the project?

Depression: There is a point when writing every grant (at least for me) where I lose the forest for the trees and it seems like the grant is a scattered mush of directionless words, associated only by being in the same document. I usually have to put the whole thing down for a couple of days and come back and read the whole through, from start to finish. Only then do I regain some perspective and start making the connections.

Testing: I try and send it out to a couple of colleagues who are in different sub-fields. If they get it and understand why the project is exciting I know I'm on the right track. If not, it tells me where I need to strength my description or make connections more obvious.

Acceptance: When everything falls into place and I can read it and feel like I got all my points across. The only left to do at this point is submit the thing and hope for a second stage of acceptance.

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