[Set-up] It looks like I’m going to continue to need a little flexibility and creativity with Writing 101 . Today’s actual assignment is the completion of a three part series I started back on “Day 4.” Of course, I haven’t actually written part two of this three-part series — because that’s one of the pieces I skipped during last week’s work insanity. So I guess I won’t actually be jumping right into this week’s assignments. Instead, there will be a targeted reach-back to last Wednesday’s assignment, as a precursor to whenever I get around to doing today’s.
So, Day 13, written on what should actually be Day 16 of the sequence:
On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something. . . . Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.
You could pick up the action where you stopped, or jump backward or forward in time. You might write about the same topic, but use a different style, or use the same style to tackle a neighboring topic.
So, gentle reader, when I last left the abbreviated summary of my life’s career trajectory, I had drifted into both an environment (academia) and a profession (faculty) for which I was profoundly ill-suited. To some degree, the inner rumblings around that ill-suitedness began very early. And yet, I struggled to persevere. Buckled down to overcome the deficiencies of my mass-market, public school background. Shifted graduate programs to one where I had more natural gifts and talents than my first Ph.D. curriculum.
Why was I so damn stubborn? In part because I am really, truly so damn stubborn. But a lot of it was rooted in a basic survival-level fear that there wasn’t anything besides teaching/professor-ing that I could ever make a living at.
I dare say I kinda fell into my career. It’s not like I wandered around elementary school saying “I want to be a fund-raiser when I grow up!” And, really, who would go around saying that? Do the ins-and-outs of non-profit management get any airplay in the Sesame Street/Richard Scarry “People in my Neighborhood” set?
Nowadays there’s definitely more awareness at the college level of non-profit careers. But that’s a big shift from when I went to school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
I actually wrote my first successful grant proposal as a bit of volunteer service for a community choir where I was singing. I’d somehow talked my way onto the choir’s board as a general member-at-large, and was eager to find ways to prove my worth and contribute. So when the Board president asked for someone to help write some grant proposals, I figured it’d be an easy thing to do. I’m a good writer. I even know how to teach writing, don’t I? A grant proposal should be simple!
And here’s the kicker: it kinda was.
This is not to minimize the ways that grant-writing is intensely different from the stylistic and argumentative conventions of academic prose. But where I always found myself struggling and straining against those academic conventions, the general transparency of grant guidelines, and the need to build a tight, compelling argument out of plain language was a genre of writing that made instinctive sense to me.
And then we got the money.
So suddenly, something that both came naturally to me — writing plain, strong prose — and that I had studied intensely — how to analyze genre and build written arguments* — had real, honest-to-goodness street creed and value to it. I had worked for less than a weekend, and my choir now had several thousand dollars to show for that effort.
Now, obviously, that initial grasp of what it took to be a grants professional was, in its own way, appalling naive. I had a lot to learn in the first few years of my career — though the learnings were sufficiently connected to my existing strengths and background knowledge that success was possible.
And I still have moments where I question whether fund-raising is really the “forever career” for me. The division and tension I have seen at every non-profit between those who raise the money and those actually out doing the work is one that troubles me. I know the privileges of being in the fund-raising camp. But I also have never entirely been able to let go of a nagging self-quesitoning about whether I really want to spend the rest of my life being “just a fund-raiser” — after all, the Gospel of Matthew suggests that “you cannot serve both God and mammon” (6:24).
But even with those ongoing questions about whether there is a third career yet to unfold in my life, I remain profoundly grateful that I was able to lose academia and find my way into grants and fund-raising. I have become very good at what I do, I have seen the benefits of my efforts take shape in programs and services and buildings, and I have been able to make a living for myself.
* Or “analyze funder guidelines and build a responsive case for support.”
Image credit: http://s102.photobucket.com/user/pb82/media/Cartoons/calvin-on-fund-raising.gif.html