“You write well. Why don’t you go into publishing?”
These words from a well-meaning professor haunt me still. Back in my early 20’s, lacking any other real career guidance, I followed her suggestion, and began a less-than-fruitful journey into the world of work. Sure, I did get an internship at respected national publication, which led to a part-time copy editor job at a respected NYC newspaper. The “publishing career” stalled there, however, as attempts to get “into publishing” in any sort of permanent, full-time way yielded nothing.
Fast forward to 2012. Classical music career floundering, immediate family imploding, I’m having dinner with a friend. “Why don’t you try grant writing? It’s just like writing research papers.”
My friend meant well. She had her doctorate in Musicology, like me. She was a classical singer, like me, and also like me, she had found life as a full-time performer to be less-than-fulfilling from an emotional as well as monetary standpoint. She had managed to find a niche in the field of Development, that is, fundraising for non-profits. It’s a field with good salaries and high turnover. It’s also a field where people aren’t taken aback (too much) when the letters “PhD” are attached to a job applicant’s name. My friend had been able to support herself and find time to sing. Maybe it could work for me, we reckoned.
The only problem with this reckoning was that I had not written a research paper since leaving graduate school a decade earlier. This was partly by chance, but mostly by choice. In graduate school, I had been passionate about my research on operas composed by women, but few of my classes called forth the same zeal. The year after I finished my doctorate, I even had the opportunity to curate an exhibit on the subject, which required even more extensive research that I was glad to do. But after that, there were few subjects to which I felt drawn, and I was far from certain that I could get up any enthusiasm for researching some subject chosen by someone else.
Still, I kept the idea of “Grant Writer” on the back burner of my mind, and when the opportunity arose recently for me to take a temporary, part-time writer/editor position that was 90% grant writing, I gave it a shot. With no other job prospects except adjuncting (which had already kicked my butt), what did I have to lose? I hoped that I would be wrong about myself. I hoped I would be wrong about the field. I hoped that I would fall in love with grant writing, and that it would fall in love with me.
TO BE CONTINUED