What a whirlwind 24 hours. My weekend began with a rejection email from a writing contest. No problem. Rejection is familiar territory I can breeze across. Then 12 hours later, I learn I'm selected to participate in the Canyon De Chelly Ultra Marathon in October 2020 (more on that in a bit). Alright, that's better news, right? Especially since over 800 runners apply but only 175 are selected through a lottery process. Not long after, however, a second rejection email for a different writing contest rattles my inbox (I'm a finalist but not the winner). Alas, that familiar rejection territory returns, but my ego sinks me like an anchor.

Art-survival is binary. You're successful or you're not. My problem-solving brain sees no middle ground. And that's dangerous. For instance, if I'm successful, I've got to maintain my stature by heightening my skills. And if I'm not successful, there are opportunities I need to advocate myself for, which requires serious effort. Down, up, down, up. The feeling twists my insides.

I'm not a rollercoaster person. Never have, never will be. The thrill doesn't suit me, any more than actual life's ups-and-downs. Still, it's not always about the feeling. Sometimes it's about the sounds and smells, or in my case, the view.

Inc. published an article titled "5 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal with Rejection" and Number

5 speaks to me:

5. They Learn From Rejection
Mentally strong people ask themselves, "What did I gain from this?" so they can learn from rejection. Rather than simply tolerate the pain, they turn it into an opportunity for self-growth. With each rejection, they grow stronger and become better.

What I'm learning is to take in the view from the curve in the track before my next nose dive. What's spotted are all of my accomplishments and sacrifices thus far, as well as acknowledging versions of myself hopping on this thrill ride. The funny thing is I can get off my rollercoaster whenever I choose. No one is forcing me. And that, my friends, is my takeaway from rejection(s): I know I'm getting back on even though the ride isn't over yet.

So, yeah, I have 35 weeks to train for a 55k Ultra Marathon. Let's chat about that a different time...

Spring deadlines for grant & residency applications are weeks away. My butt is shifting into gear and already I'm going mad. What keeps me focused, however, aside from my tips & tricks list (read my Part I post) is Gigi Rosenberg's The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing. Her book is full of wisdom and hope, which is much needed after trudging through any application process.

A few quotes from the book:

"How is your project unique? Most funders like projects that solve a problem in a new way." Pg 56
"Why does the world need your project right now? An urgent, well-timed project is most likely to receive funding." Pg 56
"Well-written proposals tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning is what you've done as an artist previously, the middle is where you are now, and the end is where you want to take your work next." Pg 84
"If your artists statement will appear alongside your work, your audience wants to look inside your process. They want to know what makes you tick." Pg 93

I forget if this book recommends hoarding submitted applications, regardless if they earn you a grant or fellowship, but that's what I do in binder-form. So when application time comes, I can flip through previous applications to see if there's any material I can repurpose or build off of. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't, but it doesn't hurt, nor cost much, to stay organized.

Quick note: although my resources are focused towards grants, my binder is also used to apply for fellowships and residencies. I've found that grant writing advice is transferrable to other artistic applications.

My binder is nothing fancy.

Inside, on the other hand, is an archive of materials I've submitted over the years, like resumes, artists statements, work samples, etc, as well as application instructions. Below is (1) an outdated resume, (2) guidelines for the 2020 CityArtist grant (which I was awarded $5,000 to curate my own performance forthcoming autumn 2020), and (3) notes for the Artist Fund, in which I'm applying again this year.

My binder is also a resource archive of handouts I've collected from various people. I highly recommend checking out the Authors Guild Foundation. They regularly host free trainings in-person and online.

Best of luck on your applications, y'all. And send a few good vibes my way, too!

"Momentum in Life"

For my 36th birthday, I launched 36 goals to accomplish in one year. The pressure of New Year resolutions paralyzes me. But according to Positive Psychology, "Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guides your focus and helps you sustain that momentum in life." So I focused on curating specific goals on my annual trip around the sun instead.

Six-Month Progress

I'm halfway through my 36th year and in desperate need of a check in. To my surprise, there's been substantial movement with several goals. Here are a few highlights:


  • Attend a writers retreat: self-curated with writer friends in November 2019

  • Launch a writers' movement: a loosely defined goal at the time morphed into Fight For Our Lives, a performance series advocating for communities targeted by divisive politics. Read more here.

  • Obtain a flexible day job to allow more writing time: with a stroke of luck and targeted networking, I found an afternoon teaching gig that frees up my mornings for writing sessions. Read this post for more info about my routine.

In Progress

  • Run a half-marathon (2x): Soooo....come Feb 7th, a buddy and I will know if we qualify for the Canyon De Chelly 55k Ultra in Oct 2020. 55k equals 34 miles, or more than two half-marathons. Wish us luck? Gulp.

  • Deepen my allyship for Trans/Queer/LGBTQ+/Two-Spirit communities: this will never be a "finished" goal. Building off of Fight For Our Lives, I have a secret project that will take my allyship to the next level, and I can't wait! More news to come.

  • Read 12 books in 12 months (on target): Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, The Truth About Stories by Thomas King, The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara, Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist, Keep Going, and Show Your Work.

  • Apply to at least 6 grants/fellowships/residencies: my total is 4 submissions thus far, which I earned a spot in the Bend Writers Workshop for spring 2020. The other 3 opportunities are TBA. Note: I purposely specified "apply to" rather than "attend" or "earn" these opportunities, as I don't have control over the decision making process when applying.

  • Attend a Mindfulness Retreat: my day job has a generous professional development package, so I'm using that to strengthen my wellness-ish-ness game.


  • Submit work to 12 publications: this is a big miss. I've only submitted 2 pieces of work, 1 of which got published in Homology Lit. The other is TBA. Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Tweaking Required

  • Increase social media followers: Why I thought increasing my social media "influence" was important to my craft is beyond me. A month into this goal I threw it out. After reading Austin Kleon's book Show Your Work, I readjusted this goal to focus on, well, showing more of my work on social media. As a result, I created this blog!

  • Do 100 Push Ups/Sit Ups/Pull Ups: really?! do you scream masculine fragility much? next! [rolls eyes at myself]

The Next Six Months

As you can see, my goals are a potpourri of this-and-that: building my author platform, strengthening my craftwork, increasing my physical and mental wellness-ish-ness, and advocating for communities-in-need. I'm confident that the next six months will be productive, and I've promised myself I won't beat myself up if I don't finish 100% strong, because, dang, I've done a lot so far [pats myself on the back]. The most important thing is I feel the life momentum I was craving on my 36th birthday: the need to change some of my behaviors, help others, and live well(ish).

Interested in building your own goals?

Here's a goal setting worksheet I use with my business students. Start small, however. Don't feel pressured to match a goal number to your age. Do what feels comfortable, realistic, and above all, empowering to you.

D.A. Navoti

About the Writer

D.A. NAVOTI (@da.navoti) is a creative nonfiction and poetic prose storyteller. He's a 2020 Seattle CityArtist recipient and a former fellow at Hugo House and Jackstraw Cultural Center. Read More... 

Events & Resources

Follow Me on Instagram
Recent Posts

© 2017-2020 by D.A. Navoti