I am officially 7 working days into my creative writing PhD. It’s hard to feel much pressure for something which I have three years to complete (FAMOUS LAST WORDS). So I am going to do some planning tomorrow, where I break it down into years, then months, then weeks, then days. Then I will send my plan to my supervisors, so that they are not such rubbery, self-imposed deadlines, but ones which mean something.
I think I have been blessed with two good, complementary supervisors. Both are warm and encouraging, and very respectful of my ideas, making me feel like the peer I hope to become. Our supervision meetings so far have been in the nature of conversations, rather than polemical discussions – I do not feel I have to defend or obfuscate – I feel we can talk openly and explore. That is what three years gives you, I suppose – at least in the beginning. Anne has already sent me excellent reading suggestions for my creative piece. Janet, I get the feeling, will help to keep me on the straight and narrow – gently suggesting that I write an action list after every supervision meeting, and that I get on top of my first milestone, which is “confirmation.” In a PhD, this comes one year into the course, and is the reverse of the Catholic type – instead of you affirming your faith in the holy spirit, they, a panel of academics confirm their faith in your ability to finish the PhD which you have so hopefully begun.
For the first time, before embarking on a creative work, I feel I do want to research. I want to know how other people have gone about writing this sort of a thing. I want to read about structure, and ways of telling story, and voice. I want to learn, rather than just create. I can’t tell you how absolutely right and luxurious it feels to sit, and read, and know that this is good work towards my goal. I had worried that a PhD would somehow cramp my creativity. But it seems – it is early days yes, but I think, hope and feel that a PhD structure may be a good thing for my writing after all.