Tactics to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Whether you’ve been grant writing for decades or are a first timer, the emotions that come with completing grant applications can be pretty tumultuous. Although experience is always a great teacher, many organizations and writers do not have the luxury to ‘test-out’ or ‘practice’ their grant writing skills. The reality is that a lot can be hinging on whether or not funding is secured (i.e.- employment/layoffs, operational costs, program closures, etc.). For those of us fortunate enough (or unfortunate) to be put in the author’s chair, the pressure to get it done right and successfully can be down-right crippling at times. Here are few tactics to help overcome the anxiety that often be part of the grant writing process.

1. Normalizing the Fear: Addressing and coping with fear is part of the human experience. Most of us have pretty common fears or anxieties that pop up in daily life, such as public speaking, spiders, heights, letting someone down, large crowds, etc. Being afraid or having anxiety about performing is also a common trait, and therefore it commonly occurs in our work life as well. First, it is okay and normal to feel anxious or fearful of not being successful in grant writing.

2. Understand where the fear is coming from: Sometimes when we are able to compartmentalize our worries, we are able to channel our energy on completing the task at hand rather than focusing on the rush of emotions and swirling thoughts of dread during the process. After contemplating and pinpointing where the fear or anxiety is coming from (i.e.- lack of experience or short timeline), we can make space to sort out the foreseeable issues that get in the way of focus.

3. Reflect on your process: With gradual grant writing experience comes more grasp on the minute details that may end up taking hours to sort out. An excellent tactic is to keep a journal or notes handy on your process. What worked well? What didn’t work out so well, and what are some strategies you could implement to avoid those problems in the future? Were you organized in your process or would it be helpful to have corresponding documentation, data and information stored in a more accessible fashion?

4. Understand that Rejection is Inevitable: There is no way around it! Rejection can feel brutal. It can also have grave consequences. But it WILL happen. While there is no easy way around grappling with a firm rejection, keep in mind that opportunities exist even when rejected. Additionally, sometimes rejection has little to do with the writing aspect of the application and everything to do with what the priorities and directions of the funding agency itself. In other words, you may have dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s, but funders are typically looking for very specific programs and initiatives that fulfill their priorities and mandate.

5. Seek Out Educational and Support Related Resources: There are a lot of resources on the internet that provide advice and “how-to” guides for grants. Additionally, books, articles, blogs, videos, and presentations can help in the self-educating that comes with grant and ghost-writing gigs. You can also reach out to a colleague, friend or family member who has experience in grant writing, or ask for help in the editing process. When we read the same document over and over and make countless small changes in grammar and paragraph structures, sometimes that carefully articulated grant becomes all but a big blur. Fresh eyes are always a best-bet resource in noticing that what the author casually misses or overlooks.