How come, you ask? Why do I want to spend five years working toward a degree that may not do me any good out in the real world? I know getting a PhD won’t guarantee me a job. I do think it’ll increase my chances, but realistically, not by much. To get a good job as an English professor, I need, more than anything, to just get lucky. There are far more applicants than there are actual jobs in this field, so, while having a PhD might help me be more competitive, the chances are still good that I would get a PhD and still not be able to find full-time work.
But that all has to do with what I would do with the degree after graduation. That’s not actually the reason I want to go for the degree. The truth is, I want to go for a PhD because I love being a student and I want to be a student again, if only for a little while. My time in my MFA program was the happiest, most fulfilling of my life. I learned so much, grew so much. I met lots of amazing people and became immersed in a world I had hardly known existed before.
I know that going back to school for a PhD wouldn’t exactly replicate my experience as an MFA student. I’ve already learned much of what there is to learn about being a writer, and I’m already part of the writing world. Still, I know studying with a new set of professors and students will only help me become an even better writer. I miss workshop, and I miss taking other types of classes too. I never did feel like I got a very firm grounding in theory and criticism, and every lit course is completely new—even when you’ve already read and discussed the books the course covers.
I love discussing literature. I love learning new factoids about literary history. I love discovering my own interpretations and opinions through the research process of writing a paper (though I admit, writing actual papers isn’t always my favorite thing, although even that often brings with it its own sort of pleasure). And yes, I love giving and getting feedback in workshop. I love talking writing with other writers.
It’s like that adage: Some people want to write; others want to have written. I think some people want to be PhD students, and others want to have earned PhD’s. There’s nothing wrong with either perspective. In fact, logically, making the time commitment to earn a PhD probably should be the result of a calculated decision about the future. But for me, I just don’t have the energy to think too much about the future. When I do, I start to feel overwhelmed and depressed. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a full-time job in academia, but I do know that I would get a lot out of (and enjoy the heck out of) being in a PhD program. The degree itself, for me, is beside the point. When I ask myself what I would like to spend the next few years doing, I can’t think of anything that I’d rather do than be back in school.