Why It's OK If the First Draft of Your Grant Proposal Isn't That Great

What do you think of Apple's first draft?

It gets the point across, but it's not perfect.

This is exactly what you should aim for with the first drafts of your grant proposals.

If you wordsmith a first draft to death, and then rethink a component of the project design or realize that the funder won't support part of the concept, you've lost some valuable time.

For your first drafts, don't let perfect be the enemy of good. (Perfect and good can fight it out in the final versions of your proposals, at which point I am usually rooting for perfect.)

But there's an exception to the rule! Some of us think on paper. We don't know exactly what we want to write until we've written it.

If this is you, the mental energy you put into belaboring each sentence of your first drafts could be a good investment. I think that Mark Twain was one of those people. He said:

"The time to begin writing an article

is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.

By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive

what it is that you really want to say."

-- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

Here are three tips for drafting bliss:

  1. To write that first draft of your proposal with minimal stress, use an outline.
  2. To focus on your draft and minimize distractions, get out of the office and away from the internet. Download the materials you will need to your laptop, print the grant proposal guidelines and project descriptions, and get thee to a coffee shop or other favorite place for intellectual work.
  3. To get inspired by some great rewrites of so-so first drafts, read the book Grant Proposal Makeover.

Happy drafting!