I had to write 500 words about an upcoming project for a grant application. I don’t know if I summarized the scope and vibrancy of my ideas in this application. As I review the standard proposal writing checklist – Need, Description, Objectives, Methods, Time line, Outcomes, Personal History, Evaluation, Sustainability, and Legacy – I might say I barely crossed any of them off. Why is that? Why didn’t I write the proposal that a grantor might be more inclined to fund?
The grant is for an international artistic exchange. The journey I’m proposing would be the very first step in what could end up being a much bigger thing with a lasting impact on my plans for the next few years. This application was hard because going to another country with an itinerary planned five months in advance and a list of objectives and outcomes feels insensitive. It’s like inviting yourself to someone else’s house and then eating their food, sleeping in the coziest bed, borrowing a few books off the shelf and then making a documentary about it. It reminds me one objective I left out of the application is that I hope to nurture a deeper kind of listening.
I’m proposing an authentic adventure. My questions might not have answers. The whole “bigger plan” thing might just fail. At the very least, I hope I summoned the language to outline that kind of project and the passion that I feel for it. Adventure, Unanswerables, Potential to fail… that’s about what I hope for.
Those first 500 words barely scratch the surface of it. It’s really the next 500 words that I think are important. The 500 words that I can’t say. The words that describe the things I hope will happen while carrying out this project. The connections that I’ve only penciled in and the dots that have yet to be connected.
I’m going to Korea. Soon. When it’s cold. I’ll travel to the capital to tell stories to school children and run a workshop for actors. Then I’ll travel through the countryside and meet people who are the keepers of Korean traditions. I want to ask if I might hear a song of theirs, or study a dance, or learn how to paint one of their words. I will come with songs and stories ready to trade.
In a way that’s all I can say about this project. I hope it sounds modest, humble, and achievable. But it could be the seeds to something beyond wonderful…
Quite a few people are rooting for me, actually. I have 5 and 6 year old students who are from there and speak with an emphasis like “Mr. Seth, I go to KO-RE-A!!!” Their parents are also hoping I am able to see their homeland. I work at two schools and they will gladly give me time off if I come back and relate my experience to my students. A friend of a friend is making art in the capital and will hopefully be willing to talk to me about what kind of art is being made, how it is funded, and what kind of life artists live. I assisted workshops for a group of students from Seoul and hope to share new ideas with that program. I hope to find a group of pen pals for my English speaking classroom in Poland. While lost in London last week, I stumbled on the Korean Culture Center and found a wealth of inspiration and a receptionist who laughed at my jokes. None of these people have given me letters of invitation. All I can do is knock on the door and see who will open it.
Can you feel that this idea is made of a web of fragile silk? If you want to read the whole proposal browse my Documents page. (That took 644 words.)
UPDATE 12/19/14: I didn’t get this grant. So I won’t be going to Korea when it is cold. But I’m still going…