Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sending Out An SOS

Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Well, I’m pretty sure I accomplished that task for the whole week yesterday. You see, yesterday was my first day at Wayne State – an urban university in downtown Detroit – where I’m pursuing my PhD. Not only is it a 90-mile commute one way, it’s also way out of my comfort zone. But even though I successfully navigated the traffic, crazy parking structures, and that maze that they call campus, I can’t help but feel sad. Sad because as my seminar homework piles up, and my teaching responsibilities add on, I feel like my writing career is slipping away, that I won’t have time to pursue the one career that I love.

Confession: I don’t really want my PhD. Not at all. I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I’ve been living my dream since January. It’s not a glamorous life (the deadlines, the stress!), but I LOVE it. The writing, the editing, the community of writers (YOU all!). I close my eyes and picture my future, and it’s not of text books and lectures, but of book signings and conferences. I love public speaking! Sign me up as a panelist any day.

So the question is, why am I getting my PhD? Well, security for one. Or make that the thought of security. If this whole writing thing doesn’t work out I still need a career and I HATE working 9-5. I refuse to do it. And unfortunately I’m not a trust fund baby or a trophy wife. I have to work for my money. I’m good at teaching, well entertaining at least, and like I said, public speaking is fun! But teaching isn’t what defines me.

What to do, what to do.

It would be so much easier to walk away from academia if I knew I had more of a chance in this industry. If I had an agent, networked, made connections with the industry. If my writing had more buzz, a larger following. If I won a few contests, earned some recognition. There’s so many ifs.

This time, like other times, when I’m mentally stressed, I send out an SOS. Generally it’s to my Guardian Angel (and yes, the POLICE lyrics play in my head every time). It’s worked out for me so far… I’m just looking for a little guidance. I know, I know – aren’t we all?


Bane of Anubis said...

Wow, if you're really not that excited about getting the PhD, you might want to change course b/c a PhD doesn't guarantee safety (unless you have connections that can ensure you a position in academia, at least w/o moving)... Not to be a killjoy, but unless you really like the topic and really want to go through the pain of coursework and a dissertation (not to mention a killer commute), I'd suggest another course of action.

All that being said, 9 - 5 is major suckage, and I appreciate the effort and responsibility it takes to attain a difficult goal that isn't necessarily ideal.

Dr. Damore sounds cool -- reminds me of Dr. Drake Ramore (from Friends) for some reason :) -- but make sure your heart's at least a little into it.

Holly Rutchik said...

DON'T DO IT! GET OUT NOW WHILE YOU CAN STILL GET YOUR MONEY BACK. Sorry, was that too forward? I don't know you, but this sounds BAD! I started reading and said. "WHAT?" I couldn't believe it. It is not like I don't like school. I myself have a masters and my hubby just went back (today) for his masters so that he can teach while he tries to become a film maker. We have kids and need the money - and the summers off.
But, it is not like it pay that well! Get yourself a waitressing job or work 2 jobs where you show up but don't have to take it home. That way, when you are not at work - you are writing. Because YOU HAVE TO BE WRITING! You want this, you want it more than most writers who want it want it! I can tell from this blog.
I tend to be a bossy person and I am sorry. But you did say SOS! Please, please don't walk away from writing. I know you don't want to - but you said it yourself - Ph. D school!!?? Who could have time to read and write outside of all of that?
Plus, it costs a shit ton to drive that much! And takes up more writing time.
I feel for you and know this is a hard thing. I of course will be reading this blog and supporting you no matter what. I'm sorry if I come off really strong. I really, really think you WILL make it as a writer. Good luck!

Mira said...

Well, Steph, I don't know you, but I tend in the opposite direction than the other posters - one thing about a Phd is that the school thing is temporary. You'll get the doctorate, and then you'll have more options.

In addition, if you ever write non-fiction, or perhaps even with fiction, it sure doesn't hurt to have a Phd behind your name.

Also, you'll write for your Phd. You'll write ALOT. You'll develop a body of writing. It may not be in your genre, but you'll get lots of practice and you might discover new avenues for your writing that you hadn't thought about before.

If you're pursuing a career as a writer, it is very good to have a fall-back profession, so you don't panic and can take your time to do it right.

But, actually, what I really say is this: when you read these comments, which ones feel intuitively right to you? Trust your instincts.

Laura Martone said...

Hmmm... What a question. What a dilemma. I don't know. I'm waffling between the two choices. As Bane said, a PhD doesn't guarantee safety, especially in this economic climate, when teachers and professors are getting booted due to tightened budgets. And I would assume that you're going to spend a buttload in tuition, books, and gas money, right? So, part of me says, you're young (at least according to your picture), work the sucky 9-5 thing for a little while, and give yourself time to write... Give yourself a time frame, too - like, say, a year - and if you don't snag an agent by then, go back to school.

On the other hand, as someone who sometimes wishes she'd gone for her masters and PhD instead of taking the poor freelancer's path... I say go for it! What do you have to lose, except time and money? As Mira said, you'll have something else that you might be able to fall back on... and Dr. Damore does have a nice ring to it - sounds vaguely like a soap opera character (as Bane so aptly pointed out).

Good luck with your decision, Steph! Wish I could be more help. ;-)

Laura Martone said...

P.S. Yes, I thought of the Police when I saw the title of this post... and actually started humming. If I can't get this song outta my head, I'm gonna be miffed. Harumph! (Incidentally, Dan and I got to see them play at Wrigley Field. It was awesome!)

Steph Damore said...

Wow, so I logged on this morning not expecting anyone to have commented and I get all of your lovely responses - thanks guys!

Bane - I know a PhD doesn't secure safety, but I have friends in academia, department heads that have said, "hurry up and get your PhD so we can hire you!" - so at least I have some connections there. But then again, you never know with department cuts and how good someone's word is.

Holly - I appreciate your writing support! I know that no matter what I do, my main goal doesn't change - I want to be a successful, published writer. Preferably of a mystery series, but I will take a multi-genre career as well =) There's no way I'm walking away from writing, but PhD school makes it harder to find the time!!!

Mira & Laura - Your comments represent the other half of my brain (we'll call it the logical side). See, after the fall and winter semester I'll have 50 credits (thanks to transfering 30 MA credits) and be able to take my qualifying exams - which then means dissertation time. And writing a dissertation doesn't scare me in the least bit.

IDK maybe it's not a big deal. Maybe I'm being overly poetic and romanticizing the whole thing. Maybe I should just KISS - keep it simple stupid!

Although, I'll let you in on a secret. Part of me (to how large is yet to be determined) secretly hoped, no make that wished and prayed, that my writing career would take off before now. That I'd have an excuse for not following through with my degree - as in "I have to write a sequel people! I don't have time for class!" But alas, that hasn't happened yet.
And I know I'm a MUCH stronger writer than I was a year ago, or even a month ago. And I also know that I like saying "Oh, I'm pursuing my PhD" because it sounds so much better than saying "I'm an unemployed writer" - it's a pride thing. I can no longer fault Mr. Darcy.

Okay - I could keep on going, but I won't. Instead I'm going to paint my kitchen and forget this whole mess. And then after that I'm going to write. Because after all, that's the point.

Regina Milton said...

What a dilemma. I admire you for having the courage to take on something that major.
Our writing is a combination of our life experiences and imagination so there may be something valuable you will get out of going to school again.

If my husband has taught me one thing though, it would be to not do something you don't like just for money. It helped me quit a job that was sucking the life and creativity out of me and move on to a better job (that pays less) that gives me time to write.

Tough decision.

J.J. Bennett said...

My husband is an Asst. Principal and he's thought about getting his PhD and he's not too far off really. But the pay increase for him isn't that much more considering how much you pay to get the degree. It's a hard choice but if you have student loans already it helps to go back to school to defer your loans...But then you're getting farther in debit. (Not a good thing) The drive will be hard...Sometimes we do the safe thing instead of going out on a limb. It's tell yourself. I understand your thinking and wish you safe travels, and patience.