Getting a Ph.D.

Cougar and I were talking about academia the other day and she asked me whether I wanted to get a Ph.D.

“Fuck, no,” was my considered response. But it was a fair question. I work on the outskirts of academia and have entered the adjuncting class. It’s hard to get a teaching job or respect in an academic setting if you don’t have a Ph.D. And I’ve edited some of those fuckers and I can safely say that the level of writing is within my grasp. (The level of writing is in my 17-year-old niece’s grasp too, but then she’s also a pretty good writer. Takes after her auntie.)

At one time I considered very briefly getting one as I saw my writing project opening up into a big huge mess of things I didn’t know. How would I find the time to learn all I needed to to write the book I wanted to write? But I knew better.

Writers are often like oil and water to Ph.D. programs. Would you rather study how a book works or write one yourself? For me it’s no contest. Or as Jim Harrison (?) said, I’m the bird, not the ornithologist.

One of DP’s favorite stories is the time he was chatting up some woman online (before he met yours truly, of course). Now DP is one of those people who retains everything he reads. He was channeled into gifted programs when he was a wee lad. In short, he’s pretty fucking smart.

“So, where did you get your Ph.D.?” the online woman asked after DP said something about his teaching job.

“I have an MFA in fiction.”

“Oh, that’s surprising,” the hussy said. “You’re too smart to be a writer.” He had a few choice words for her, and he found me a couple months later, so it all worked out for the best. But can you imagine? This woman hussy was studying literature.

But I’ve been thinking recently that The Fucker is my Ph.D. I do have an MFA, and I did put together a poetry manuscript. But it didn’t feel like I was assembling a book the way writing The Fucker does. It was just a collection of poems. Over time, the poetry manuscript has become a book, and I’ve learned a ton from writing the poems within it. But I’ve learned more from the memoir because it’s more difficult for me.

What do you have a Ph.D. in?



6 responses to “Getting a Ph.D.

  1. … and this is why people who don’t have PhDs hate those fuckers. The arrogance of hussies abound. And I’m a girl who loves school like a crazy person!

    But here’s the thing, whether it’s a PhD or some other label of identification, it’s bizarre to me when people constantly remind others of their label, or of some thing they accomplished 30 years ago. “When I was at Iowa …” or “When I used to get high in the park with Allen Ginsberg” (ahem, at Iowa) … or “The year I finished up at Brown” … or “When my dad sent me to Philips-Exeter and was disappointed at my choice of Princeton over Harvad” … (ALL OF WHICH I’VE HEARD RECENTLY)

    Who gives a fuck? If I’m at dinner, I am totally sitting by the guy trying to write a book or a poem or an essay about frog-catching.

  2. Nope, no PhD for me, and no desire for one either. I briefly taught college comp as an adjunct and saw that if I wanted a teaching career, I would need the big degree (and a lotta luck). But, fortunately, I realized I was a terrible teacher, and I also realized that I have no respect for grammar (as an absolute) but that I would be teaching that mostly if I did teach. So free as a bird (and not an ornithologist).

  3. I’m mid-PhD right now. Mid-thesis. About six years ago, I had this great idea about getting a PhD. (I think I was freaking out because I was pregnant with my second child and thought I needed to attend TO THE MIND. I’m not sure it was such a good time to make such a decision). Still, as much at my PhD thesis is definitely a total Fucker, I love learning what I’m learning. And my teaching has gotten better because of what I’ve learned. I know I could have learned all of this without the PhD, but, for me, a tangible goal is helpful. Plus when I finish (not if but when), I’ll get a small raise. Plus, I’ll be smarter than everyone else (just kidding).

    Now, I just have to find time to do the work. Usually, the Fucker sits there neglected, just staring at me like that Geico money that has eyeballs.

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