In contrast to this Black Sparrow clusterfuck, I’m periodically thinking of someone named Heather Dwyer.

Heather is the person from 4 culture who contacted me a month after a grant application due date to let me know that my application was almost complete; I just needed to upload work samples, and if I could do it within the next day or so, I’d be eligible for the grant I’d almost applied for.

I’d purposely abandoned my application about 6 weeks earlier due to overwhelm, impostor syndrome, and fatigue. I was having a hard time figuring out what samples to include, how to present my work in the timelines and parameters requested, and in frustration and sadness had let the due date pass by without returning to finish it. This is usually how grant applications go for me. They are kind of a fucking nightmare, and thus far have never paid off, so I historically don’t even start to fill them out.

I’ve made a concerted effort to be better about this and work through more of my internal resistance, focusing more on grants this year than the last 5 combined, with the encouragement of friends like Pinguino who occasionally sends calls my way (I totes applied for that artist at sea program, buddy!), and my anonymous benefactor that elevated my perception of myself as an artist with their gift last year.

I’m still like, really fucking bad at it, though.

I responded to Heathers mail quickly and automatically out of the same place that I’d abandoned the grant, and said I just couldn’t figure out how I fit in the application, explained that I was traveling in my van, etc. Heather was respectful of my limitations, and said she hoped that I would consider applying for future grants at another time, reminding me that if I did want to try to get work samples in by the next day, she’d be happy to help me however she could, including downloading images from the web and uploading them to my application for me.

About an hour later, I emailed Heather back and expressed interest in working through the process with her to get the application finished. I’d recalled calling for help when I first got stuck but the phone tagging winded me and I had never gotten back to her. She helped me understand the application rules a bit better — for instance, it wasn’t that I could only submit up to 10 minutes of material, it was that the selection committee was not obligated to spend more than ten minutes on each submission — and suggested a video on my youtube channel that seemed to her like a good one to submit, one that I had dismissed as too long. With her support, I finished the application, even finding a wireless solution and pulling out the laptop and creating the required work samples document in the correct format myself.

Heather was consistently tender and encouraging while remaining respectful, and when I thanked her for putting in the effort to give me a chance to finish applying for the grant she mentioned understanding on a personal level as a former artist just how hard it can be to push through the last pieces of a grant application.

This grant, btw, is specifically for artists who suffer mental illness. I won’t know until the end of the month whether I will be awarded the grant or not, and of course, I don’t expect that to be the case. However, Heathers efforts helped me feel less alone, and assisted me in my goal of practicing applying for opportunities I would normally dismiss myself from being worthy of. And sometimes, I think about that still. Today, while processing a major blow to my artistic plans and my self esteem, is one of those days where Heather is popping up. So I wrote to her.

“Subject: Praise

Hi Heather!

I just wanted to thank you for your care, recently, and let you know that what you do matters. I dunno if you struggle at all with needing reminders about that, but I do, and oftentimes I don’t really know I need to hear it until I’ve been told. So I’m taking the opportunity to write you while thinking about how your encouragement and support has touched me — in fact I think about how I was treated by you in direct response to being royally fucked over by a venue I was supposed to be playing this weekend in the middle of the country — and how honestly rare that is in my experience of trying to make life as an artist work. I just really appreciate having heard from you, your willingness to work through my hesitations with me, and the patience you showed. Regardless of the grant, that has really made a difference for me, and it still stands out when I need it to. Thanks.”

Is there someone in your life to randomly praise today?