To PhD or not to PhD


To PhD or not to PhD, that is the question faced by many Australian writers as they realise that trying to write and make a living at the same time is a challenge.

To write a large work you need a substantial amount of time and brain space devoted to that project. Working and running a household, especially one with children in it, makes finding that time nigh on impossible. In order to support writing habits, authors need both time and money to pay for it. Grants for writers are few, and highly sought after. Royalties and advances aren’t what they used to be. Most Australian writers aren’t making a living wage from all sources, and the income from their life’s great passion, their “calling”, would make a teenager laugh.

But it’s really not that funny.

Writers and writing are valuable. As important to the world as butchers and bankers and lawyers. We are the story-tellers, the record keepers, the mirrors to our world, reflecting and enlarging upon what it is to live a human experience.

So we are faced with the age old dilemma – to PhD or not to PhD. Why? Because a PhD scholarship provides a steady stream of tax free income for three years. YES! A PhD in creative writing means you get paid to write your book, plus the required exegesis. Unfortunately this academic essay has many writers I know still quivering in post-traumatic shock. But, at this point in my writing career, it seems a small price to pay for the luxury of that princely below-minimum wage income for all those years.

Which is why I’ve applied to QUT to do a Doctorate in Creative Writing next year. I’ve found wonderful supervisors who have been generous and kind in their support of my project. That’s another big tick on the “To PhD” side of the ledger, the support and mentoring, the chance to reach out a few feelers to other writers, connect with like minds and get some valuable advice and guidance along the way.

My application is in. I’ve decided to PhD, now it’s up to the Writing Gods to grant me a scholarship … or not. Cross fingers. Say prayers.

And you? Would you PhD or not?