In my career thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to win three opportunities for time and funding for my writing projects. The first got me half a year on a Texas ranch; the second brought me to the Netherlands; and the third, which I just finished, allowed me to finish a book (even though I lived at home). Across those experiences, I’ve learned a few things that I want to share, so that you use such time, if you have such good fortune, to maximum effect.
1. Take off your shoes. Whether literally or figuratively, move into the time. Take it over. It’s yours.
2. There will never be enough time. Fellowship time is the same as any other: it drains away. Whether you get a week or a year, you’ll always wish for more.
3. You’ll be alone. You’ll have no peers, no one around you doing the same thing as you are. If you had to move, your friends will be far away. Your colleagues, editors, neighbors all at home. This is good – no distractions. But it’s not good if you have questions.
4. Stick to the work plan, throw away the work plan. The people who award such things know this about creative, ambitious people who win them, and if you do at least half of what you say you’re going to do, you’ll be successful. On the other hand, it’s not like they’re going to come after you, as long as you do the core thing. You’re answerable only to yourself.
5. Get out of the office. Yes, time is limited (see #2), but don’t take the openness for granted. Hang out in new places, go to that conference.
6. Brace for impact. As lovely as it would be to stay in orbit, floating free, you live on the surface of the planet of your life, and unfortunately there’s no heat shield thick enough to save you from serious burns on re-entering the atmosphere. Fortunately, another rocket of a fellowship can take you back – you just have to be lucky enough to get on them.
Michael Erard, Funding Advisor at the Faculty of Law