A first-timer’s experience in grant writing: Part 2

Recently, I wrote a blog about my experience writing an Early Career Fellowship for the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. In the first blog, I told you about some lessons from this experience: follow your interests and don’t Google your ‘competitors’.

In this blog, I want to tell you about my final three lessons:

Lesson #3: Learn the lingo

This was a tricky one. Here’s the path through which I learned this lesson: putting yourself out there. Credit to Brene Brown’s TEDtalk on vulnerability here.


I only learned the lingo by asking for feedback throughout the process. Wherever possible I talked to people about my ideas, even when they were under-developed and not well articulated (which felt like most of the time!). I asked friends and colleagues to read and comment on my application, many of whom read it a few times. I asked for feedback from people who had previously won this fellowship and colleagues in Public Health. So I feel I can only say I learned the lingo because of the strong support I had during the writing process. I’m very grateful for this support.

Lesson #4: The importance of your environment

Wherever possible I think constructing an environment that is conducive to thinking and writing is really important. I worked from home which means I had my dog ready for walks whenever I needed to get away and readily accessible food and caffeine. This, of course, looks differently for everyone, but for me it was really important I had all these luxuries in place, especially when I felt like this:

Stressed image

Lesson #5: Take the plunge

In closing, I want to encourage others to take the plunge when faced with these academic challenges. Yes, success rates are generally terrible. I think for this particular fellowship it was less than a 20% success rate last year. So odds are I’m unlikely to get it but I knew that going into it. Instead I see it like this, I’ve put myself out there and ‘thrown my hat in the ring’, I’ve developed some great ideas in the process and I feel really proud of what I’ve written. I’ve treated this grant writing as a task in and of itself, actually winning it is something else entirely. If it turns out that I’m in that small lucky percentage of people who win the academic lottery, cool (!), but if not it’s all good, I’ve learned a lot and I’m glad I did it.

I’d love to hear others’ lessons of grant/fellowship writing in the comments here or on Twitter.

Britta Wigginton completed her PhD in critical health psychology in 2015 at The University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane Australia. Currently Britta works in a teaching role in the School of Public Health at UQ.

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