When I finished high school, I ran out of the front doors screaming with relief and chanting “No more deadlines! No more word-count limits! NO MORE WRITING!”A paper-burning ritual may or may not have occurred. Of course, I was totally wrong, I then went to study dance at university where essays and assignments were a constant part of my life.
When I finished university, I sprinted out of those front doors and began shouting from the rooftops “No more deadlines! No more word-count limits! NO MORE WRITING!” Wrong again.
As a freelance dancer, because you’re not working with a full time company, you don’t have the security of a regular pay check, or even have the opportunity to dance on a regular basis. However you’re suddenly offered an exciting and wonderful chance: to make your own work.
Making your own work – as a choreographer, filmmaker, or artist – is a rewarding and satisfying way of life. Many people prefer it because it allows an opportunity to make your own decisions and call the shots in your career. What it often means is that you’re going to need some money to make your own work.
Yes, there are organisations out there that actually offer money to worthy projects to help them come to life! All you have to do is apply, clearly tell them what you want to create, offer a prospective budget, include some support material showing that work you’ve done previously is of high quality, and make sure you’ve got one or two letters (sometimes more!) from important people who are able to recommend you. Sure, applying for arts grants means more deadlines and word-count limits, but applications of this kind are necessary if you’re interested in creating new, amazing dance without going bankrupt.
It’s something that rarely gets taught in universities, but grant writing and application writing is probably one of the most important skills a freelance dancer can have.
This requires a fair amount of keeping your finger on the pulse. There’s a certain amount of dedication needed. You need to keep up to date with different organisations, how much they are offering, the kind of projects they are looking to fund, and when the money is being given. But if you match the criteria, write about your killer idea and send it in on time, you’ve got a chance at being given the cash you need to make it happen.
Sounds awesome right? It’s kind of like when you write an essay for school, but this time you’re writing about something that you genuinely care about. However the difference is that this time, there’s no teacher at the front of the room demanding it be handed in. No one is forcing you to make this happen for yourself, it’s all your own responsibility. While it may seem like a good thing, let me assure you, it’s actually a VERY BAD THING.
Which brings me to the most common problem in this whole application-writing business. If you’ve ever been forced to write…well, anything, then you’ll know it well. Procrastination.
Suddenly the fridge becomes ridiculously interesting. Suddenly the whole house looks like it needs a vaccum. And a polish. And when did I last re-organise my wardrobe? Procrastination is the devil’s work.
Like my drama teacher always used to tell me at school, ‘Get Up and Do’. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just start something.
The thing about grant writing, or writing a proposal, or entering a competition, is that if you know what you want to do, then you just have to tell them.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to start an application with an ‘elevator pitch’. Imagine you’ve just stepped into the elevator. There’s one other person in there, and the second the doors close, they turn to you and ask “So, what is it you want to do?”
In the time it takes to ride to the second floor, and the elevator doors open again, the other person should have a crystal clear idea of what you want to do with the project. No extra information. The ‘elevator pitch’ is a very handy tool. In writing terms it usually means editing your ideas into one or two brilliantly formed sentences. From there, the rest of the word-count is used to elaborate on those two sentences, going into a little more detail and telling the assessment panel why this is such a wonderful idea that they just have to fund.
I certainly don’t want to sugar-coat the grant application process. It’s hard work and rejection is always possible, but making your own work is truly exciting and rewarding experience, and being chosen to receive the money? Even more rewarding!
Grants are not only for older, established choreographers. Just a little bit of research will show you that there is opportunities for people of any age or circumstance to get help making their ideas a reality.