The following comes to us from UT AMS doctoral student Jeannette Vaught:
Submitting my full and final National Science Foundation grant proposal this week brings my Year Of Proposal Writing to a very hefty close. NSF, you say? Their interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and Society directorate is made for American Studies people – that is, those AMSers who are willing to read reams worth of PDFs with rules, qualified rules, quantified rules, provisional rules, and so forth, followed by an equal deluge of instructions full of many, many words like “directorate” (Nota Bene: they will all eventually make sense if you read them enough times. Start early. Read often.). All that rule-following aids in compiling at least 10 separate documents ranging from the “HA I completed you in 10 minutes!” bio-sketch to the ever-arduous (how many revisions was that again?) project description. Oh, and a data management plan, since the NSF spares no humanities student an existential confrontation with their own metadata.
Many months will pass until I hear back from the NSF; some of the different kinds of proposals I’ve put out there this past year were successful and some were not. We grad students commonly face the fear that we’ve sunk countless hours into a document, or tome as it may be, that will ultimately go unrewarded. My NSF nadir – the “zomg why am I even doing this forget it * cries *” moment – was thankfully interrupted by a lovely vacation to New Orleans, which seemed like ill timing at the outset (IT’S DUE IN 10 DAYS) but turned out to be so restorative that I came back to writing rejuvenated enough to finish the application with energy and enthusiasm left over. Maybe it was the beignets. But more broadly, I’ve found that all of this writing, re-writing, scrap-and-start-overing, and aiming-at-different-audiences kind of work has been a very useful tool and exercise for thinking through – or, as some might say, “reconceptualizing” – the ins and outs of my project, which is in itself a kind of reward. And also, counter-intuitive as it may be for the Type-As among us, it’s always good to be reminded that ditching the grind for revelry at inopportune moments can be the best kind of work you can do.