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Creative Writing & PhD Programs

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Quite a few people I did my MFA with were curious about PhD's in creative writing. It's only natural, right? If you want to work in/around/on writing, you want all the knowledge, credentials, degrees, etc.. you can get your writey lil paws on. So, for a variety of reasons I went out looking for international PhD programs. Everyone says that if you're paying for a PhD, you fucked up but lets get real, creative writing is not STEM, as much as we might like it to be. You will most likely be funding a PhD in creative writing yourself.

...However...I have found some promising avenues for a creative writing PhD that might cover tuition. Of course there are scholarships available at some institutions, like this program at Goldsmith's University of London, which offers Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding opportunities, occasional fee waivers, and sometimes funding from Goldsmith's itself. In fact, a lot of schools offer a graduate teaching assistantships, so there's nothing to be lost from applying. Just know that you're going to be working while going through your PhD. It may sound like a lot of work, but there is something gratifying about the idea of being admitted into a PhD in creative writing. At that level, schools don't typically need you, and even if it's not fully funded via a scholarship program and you have to work a bit, at least you can feel like your writing had potential.

That's the big draw for me at least, I want that reassurance from some governing body that 'matters' that my writing is worthwhile. It's too hard to keep up otherwise.

With that said, I did find a PhD program in Hong Kong that also potentially is covered via a scholarship program: Hong King Baptist University.

I know, it has 'Baptist' in the title... but let's forget that for now, alright? They ain't asking for you to convert or anything, you'll be fine.

Hong Kong has something pretty cool called the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme, which lets you apply for funding to two schools you apply to. You just have to be sure to tell them which schools before you get accepted to any...which just means you pop in your top two choices and hope for the best.

Something to keep in mind when applying to PhD programs (outside of the US) is that a lot of these programs are of the research variety and your MFA is not likely considered 'research' based but rather 'class taught.' Be prepared for an offer or interview to suggest you take the long term PhD as you may be seen as lacking the foundational knowledge to set you up for succeeding in a PhD program otherwise. Also, in most cases you will be asked to create a giant creative writing project while simultaneously writing a research paper. That was the hardest part for me, trying to reconcile a writing project with a research paper proposal when applying. Now! What can you do with a creative writing PhD?

Well, obviously you can teach in a university... and...well...that may be a bit it, depending on the other ways you have developed professionally.

Could you set up a fiverr account and start editing? Sure. But will your PhD matter in that context when getting started in editing? That will depend on you, your ability to self-market, and your luck stat.

I would say go into a creative writing PhD knowing you're going to learn how to research, organize, self-criticize and edit yourself, and know that if you don't want to teach creative writing, that you're going to need to develop yourself in other ways an really market yourself heavily to break out of the teaching mold.

Also, start applying for competitions, publication at small presses, and getting published as much as possible. Not just novel publications, but poetry, micro-fiction, short stories, etc.. You need proof that not only you are a writer, but you are a 'good' writer (we won't talk about whether that means you are mainstream or must write about certain politically geared topics).

Is the PhD route for the faint of heart? Probably not if you want to do it well while setting yourself up for success (and paying very little while you're at it).

Will the PhD help you write more/better/complete works? Potentially. It's definitely a motivator to getting where you want to be, if where you want to be surrounded by writing. Onwards, to writing updates! -I started my contract for Where Nightmares Roam, like I mentioned last post. I'm onto chapter twenty-four today (which I'll start after work!), and it's just moving much quicker than I had expected. I can't imagine writing 1500 words a day, every day, forever. It's great practice, but leaves you with no energy to write anything else. I often find myself writing in all of my free time for this one project... That said, I have over 4000 views! Woo!

-With that said, Drone Girl... is on pause. She was supposed to update three days ago, but I had no energy or thoughts to spare for it with Where Nightmares Roam being a slightly paying (and therefore more important) work. It's too bad, because I was originally much more interested in Drone Girl than any other work.

-All other writing has also fallen off. It's neigh impossible for me to juggle work, house cleaning, exercise, and 1500 words. To add anything else in there is just... incredibly challenging at the moment. What I know is I did not win a writing contest, and I need to send out more submissions. I also turned in my final DELTA essay and finished all my PhD applications, so hopefully I can start adding more things into my schedule now. Maybe. My plan moving forward is to keep up with Where Nightmares Roam, this blog, and catch up on submissions.

Anything extra I get done is bonus.

To check out what I'm writing: Drone Girl: (Hiatus)

Where Nightmares Roam: (now updating daily!)

To support the author (me!):

My Patreon: Until next time! -Mea

Below are some photos of me being absolutely miserable having just had a wisdom tooth taken out yesterday. TW: Blood.

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