Those are good questions, of course, and I love that grants are based on work samples and on our artistic statements, but it's such an odd process (for me anyway) to write like this. How do I explain why my writing matters to me in 250 words? How do I sum up my artistic style in even fewer? I feel like there are a hundred different answers to those questions. It depends on what project I'm thinking about, on whether we're talking about past, present, or future work--what my mood is that day, even. And of course at the back of all of this, is the question--what do they want to hear? What will make them say yes, let's give this girl some cash?
Ok, that sounds like complaining. I don't mean it to be. I like the challenge of it, but it's also brought me up short a little bit. What's the right answer? I know that's the good kid in me panicking at an upcoming test, and I'm trying to banish her to the back forty. I know of course that there's no right answer. But there are smart answers, and clever ones, and engaging ones, and poetic ones, and also bland, trite, alarming, and frankly boring ones. Perhaps that's at the heart of this anxiety--it's another judgement on me and my work.
Back when I dreamed of being a writer (oh, the carefree college years) I assumed that having a book come out would be pure bliss. And of course it's wonderful in so many ways. But as soon as it's in the first person's hands, then the stress of wondering do they like it? did I get it right? happens. A few times at readings people have come up to me and said, so, I read your book. And left it at that. That's always kind of a weird moment for me. And? I want to ask. But I usually don't. Instead, I say thank you, letting the polite good girl back into the game. Inside I'm dying to ask--tell me! Was it any good??
And that's the real question behind all this grant writing, this summing up, explaining, elucidating. Is my work any good? Is it worth me continuing? I will keep writing, regardless of the answer, but it would be so lovely to hear yes. Yes, we loved it.