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GhostsBeforeBreakfast

Entering a PhD Program to Publish?

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Many people I've looked up to over the years, including now, have told me that I should enter a PhD program. The thing is, I don't know what I want out of my career anymore and a PhD makes less sense now than it did before I embarked on my MA;  This is due to many complicated political aspects in my industry, whether it be curatorial work or teaching. 

The problem is that I have a lot of ideas which I'd like to write about and professors keep encouraging me. They tell me the only way I will have time to write and publish is if I have institutional backing and enter a PhD program. Is it enough to enter a PhD program just so I have the ability to publish a few books of [possible] notoriety? I'm not made of money and can't think of alternatives but I also don't know if I want to live in financial squalor for 5+ years just to come out of it with technically less job opportunities (overqualified for many jobs I'd otherwise consider.) I might delete this but I'd like to see some perspective first.

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Who are these professors? They are doing you a disservice. You will not have time to write books in a PhD program. It is also completely untrue that the only way you will have time to write and publish is in a PhD program. There are many jobs that will give you enough time and flexibility to write what you want. (It kind of depends on what you want to write - if you need lots of research funding to do archival research or fieldwork in faraway places, that can be hard to do without institutional backing, but you won't get that much money to do that in a PhD program, either.)

If you don't know what you want out of a career, don't get a PhD. If a PhD doesn't make sense to you, definitely don't get one.

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So, your professors are telling you that you'll have time to publish books while attending grad school? I'm not sure. Articles, yes, but even that is challenging.

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You shouldn't go to grad school just because people told you to.

You shouldn't go to grad school if you realize that you want to even less now than before doing an MA.

You shouldn't go to graduate school with the sole goal of writing books, because it's untrue that you will only be able to write if you're in a PhD.

And that last one has so many questions. Can you only write when you're in the PhD? Don't you want to get out eventually? Does that mean later you can't write? What does institutional backing have to do with you writing a book? Do they think it will make it easier to publish it? Are they saying you can only write books if you're a professor, meaning you have to go through the PhD and then try to get a professorial job (which is extremely difficult) to then write a freaking book?

Anyone can write a book. In any position. At any life stage. You don't need institutional backing, a PhD, or even your own computer. Now, if you want to only write and do nothing else, and financially support yourself, obviously that is difficult. But a PhD won't solve that problem for you.

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