Persistence pays off.

I applied for the Arts Council England grant, Developing Your Creative Practice, a few months ago.

I was not selected.

It was Round 12, the final round. I missed the prior eleven chances and was kicking myself; this was a perfect grant for an individual artist like me. Why was my application rejected? I spent ages on the essays, budget worksheet, and milestone timeline. Was I too well-off? Too American? Too white? Too straight? Too boring? Too military? Too close to London? I would never know.

I have failed many times in my life. Sure, I’m disappointed and may even cry a little, but then I look for the silver lining. The lesson learned. The way ahead that is better than the last attempt. I failed in high school basketball, concert band tryouts, college intramural sports, flight school check rides, graded squadron events, being selected for a military mentorship role, my first Master’s thesis submission, being published dozens of times, and many relationships. Even some of my attempts at parenting have been utter flops.

Failure feels terrible. It stings. It laughs at us when we’re most vulnerable.

But failure is also a great motivator. I normally swear, and then, like Dory, just keep swimming.

Unexpectedly, Round 13 opened up.

I didn’t know why I wasn’t chosen for 12 and I didn’t have much energy left to revamp my application. How could I possibly make it better? A few days before the deadline, I lightly edited my essays, removed my trip to the States for my budget, and tweaked my timeline slightly. I kept the same letter of recommendation, the same writing sample, the same title. Well, no. It’s too long. Take out a few words. There. Submit.

And wait. That’s what a lot of writing is: waiting. Or, as one of my grad school teachers said, submit and forget. So I did.

I planted a vegetable patch. I painted the lobby. I brought my son to swim lessons. I went to gymnastics with my daughter. I worked. I ran. I bought shrubs and bushes. I helped my husband around the house. I wrote emails. I called my sister. I walked the dog. I napped with the cat. I was sick, I was healthy, I was busy, I was bored. And one month went by.

Then, two days ago, an email. Login to the website, open the virtual letter.

I got it.

I got it!

Holy smokes, I got my grant.

I dared not dream of getting this grant. It was a pipe dream, a silly exercise in what if. We had enough money; I didn’t truly need to be paid for my time to write, right? But the motivation to finish my memoir, to write a book, before I turn 40… it’s there. And the hard work of writing a timeline to follow for one year has already been done. By me. I now have to prioritize what’s important to my artistic self – writing, blogging, reading and researching, and starting a new podcast – and do it. I haven’t had this much motivation to focus on my writing since my pre-kid, grad school days.

It’s all so new, I’m still flabbergasted. What I will say, what I’m contracted to say now, is that this opportunity wouldn’t be possible without the support (using public funding) by Arts Council England. I will not squander this once-in-a-lifetime chance to develop myself, my artistic pursuits, and my creativity.

Be excited, people! (Check back for more updates soon.)

For more information, please visit Arts Council England.

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