Why do a PhD?

This question often accompanies the ‘what are you studying’ question, and for me it is not as straightforward to answer.

For others the answer is clear-cut. There are plenty of students whose PhD is the next logical step in their academic careers. They have a plan, a goal and they can see where they are headed. For me, it is the opportunity of three more years of study and then…?

If you look at my academic career, a PhD was not on the cards. I didn’t do well at high school. I was too distracted to pay much attention in class. I enjoyed school, because of my friends, but school in general bored me to death. At seventeen, I went straight from school to university, and slept through most of my lectures; eventually failing in third year and dropping out.

So, I travelled and worked and had a great time, but then I surprised my parents and went back and finished that course. My first degree; I was a qualified nurse; a job I still do today and love to do. But back then, I did not love it, I wanted to do something else, but had no idea what.

I started taking community courses; in acting, painting, photography, sculpture, and short film making, to name a few. Clearly, I felt drawn to the creative arts, but had this notion that you needed to be a great talent to do anything like that, and I had shown no talent. In fact my art teacher in year 10 had said: you should not keep doing art, you have no talent for it.

A few years later, after some more travelling, working and having a baby, I finally had the balls to say: who cares if I have no talent. It was the film making that had stuck with me the most. So I applied for AFTRS and did not get in. So I applied for UTS and WooHoo! I got in, to do a BA in Communications. It was fantastic and I didn’t fall asleep in my lectures. The course had a good balance between the theoretical and the practical, and it reintroduced me to creative writing, something I had not done since high school.

In Australia, there is still debate about whether or not creative writing is something you can actually teach and whether it is worthy of academic study. Without university, I could have just knuckled down and written a novel, but as I have already mentioned I am easily distracted, I need some external form of discipline. During my breaks from study, I hardly write at all.

So, I applied because I enjoy learning new things. And I am hoping that three years on a project of this size will kick me into a momentum that continues afterwards. It is about community as well; I like to be around other students, they are fascinating. The theory also feeds the creative work. It sends me off in directions I would not find without it.

And a PhD is a great excuse for getting out of the housework.

Why don’t you tell us why you are going back to Uni?

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3 Responses to Why do a PhD?

  1. onecoolcheek says:

    I don’t normally think of it as having talent. I think of it as being good at something and I am sure you are good at certain things. Obviously, we always want to try new things and sometimes trying new things will lead us to find our niche. The things we are not so good at, we can always dabble in for fun and use the opportunity as a learning experience. For example, I learned to crochet when I was quite young. One of my uncles’ wife is a crochet genius (that’s her thing)! Now, I hate crocheting but I can create a simple doily just by remembering the few tricks that my aunt showed me. I cannot read the crochet manuals and follow the designs to create anything fancy. What I CAN say is that I learned a new skill and back then it was an exciting venture to sit and crochet with my aunt (my mum still has my very first doily). Crochet is not my thing!

    I am happy you were able to find something you are good at and something you enjoy. I wish you the best in your PhD journey!

    • Thanks for the comment.
      I dabble in a bit of crochet myself, but it is not something I love to do.
      I do love writing, even though it is something I may always feel I am still learning how to do.
      I have spoken to writers who have been writing for decades and made careers out of it, and some of them say it still feels like they are learning how to write.
      There are worse things than a lifetime of learning though.

  2. Ok. I care if I have no talent. Who wouldn’t? How does everyone else feel about the talent question?

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