I had been thinking about enrolling in a Phd for some time – I had heard of artists who had got a three year scholarship to do a PhD which was basically just a ‘write up’ of what they did in their art. But then I got a full time job in academia – without hardly any sessional experience – and after around 6 months, I knew I wanted to do a PhD and I would have to manage it part time.
Getting the proposal together was hard work as it got knocked back four times! I took me nearly 7 months from the first one until I got it accepted – and this was in the days before ethics clearance and limits on time to get proposals done (2005). The proposal began a much more complex beast that it ended up as: I had in it all the things I was interested in, and not necessarily things I had experience with. Ultimately, the most interaction I ever had with my supervisors was in this proposal period.
And after that – as I was a part time, remote student, I just tried to jam everything I did into that PhD topic. By that I mean I tried not to stray into other topics with my art, and I kept looking for conferences and publications to write for. In the end I submitted over 6 papers during my 6 years part time, and published in journals that were based in science, drama, history and multi arts even though my focus was primarily on music. This regular preparation and submission of papers was a key factor in me submitting on time, lots of deadlines often seemed easier for me to manage than that big scary one at the end, at least in terms of the writing.
And as for the art? Well, my supervisors taught me not take every opportunity to present work, but choose the right opportunities. Push my work out internationally and think of works as a series of ‘tests’ – where I would try out ideas on a path that was really just the research question being answered in different ways.
Being a remote student I had little to do with my PhD university at all. Luckily, as a staff member at ECU I was privy to the support they offered. I never would have been able to complete otherwise. I needed better Word skills, and had never used Endnote before. I also got to know the library better which continues to benefit me.