One of the most important fundamentals I teach comes from my friend, Bev Browning, the author of Grant Writing for Dummies. She is the person who taught me that it was best to write like I was in the middle of a hurricane. Given the recent bad weather on the East Coast, I have been reminded of just how terrible it is to be caught in the middle of a hurricane.
If you pretend that you are in the middle of a hurricane while you are writing, then a number of things important to your success fall in place automatically. For example, you will be more likely to get right to the point. In an emergency situation, you have a strong incentive not to waste any time in your communications. You absolutely need to determine your most important message and then focus all your attention on quickly getting that message across in the clearest, most effective manner.
This is one of the reasons why I like to use voice recognition software when I produce the first draft of a grant or a newsletter article. One of the advantages of voice recognition software is that you can write as quickly as you talk. Even though you are talking at the speed of a panicked on-the-scene television reporter, your voice recognition software should pick up every word and record it in easy to revise print.
Next, writing like you are in the middle of a hurricane gives your writing the extra energy and urgency needed to wake up the reader. They can tell that you are under extreme pressure and not in any mood to waste your or their time. Ideally, even the most passive and peaceful projects will come off as more interesting and compelling if your write like you are in the middle of a hurricane.
Even if you think your topic is not all that urgent, thinking about it from this mental perspective will help you focus on the portions of your project that really are urgent. I have used this technique to prepare myself before writing on behalf of a charity that provided students with access to organic gardening tours and techniques. In my case, I focused on the homeless people who would benefit from access to the nutritious food produced by the organic gardeners and for the children whose growth might be stunted by a lack of immediate access to healthy, organic food.
Finally, writing like you are in the middle of a hurricane compels you to be economical with your research and needs assessment. You quickly realize that the reader does not need to learn everything there is to know about the topic of your grant, but they do need to grasp the most important necessities of your argument. A focus on absolute necessity is one of the tools used by charismatic leaders to motivate, inspire and direct their followers. You can always create the powerful leverage of a focus on sheer necessity by imagining that you are writing in the middle of a hurricane.