Although (as discussed on Katy aka the Rebel Poetess blog*) having a breakdown at the age of 21 ultimately led me to becoming a writer, in a sense it taught me to fight for everything I have done in my career. However, going to university certainly was the trigger that pushed me up towards the skies.
I’ve interacted with a lot of writers since leaving, but university was where I learnt to look at my writing in a different way from the almost childish scribblings I was writing before – I’m being honest here. It came at the cost of watching lots of people give up, who in several cases I felt were better writers than me (at least then) including one friend of over twenty years – who I stopped speaking to recently for reasons I won’t go into here.
This gentleman in question is a case in point as he was an exceptional writer at university, but as soon as he left he simply fell out of the habit of writing and couldn’t get back into it when he started again years later. I’ve had moments like that over the years, but not as long. It proved challenging then, which leaves me thinking it would be almost impossible to start again after a such lengthy break as the one mentioned above.
I also recall other people like this gentleman simply gave up when they started receiving strong (sometimes cruel) criticism from tutors. My marks, it has to be said, were average before I reached my third year at university. Sometimes they were not so good, but I kept going.
Now in my case, I certainly can’t admit that I wrote masterpieces at university from 1998 to 200. In my opinion, I wrote some complete rubbish back then, but I kept going. I ended up joining a writing workshop in 2005 in Bolton. After that folded in 2008, I co-formed my own which still runs to this very day in some form or another.
At University however, although I clashed with some of the tutors there over my work, by the time I joined my first writing discussion group in 2005 I understood how to look at my work and others in a logistical way, even though I didn’t think I had learnt that at university.
Looking back at things many years later, perhaps I could have gone on to become the writer and artist I did without going to university. It’s unlikely that would have led to some of the adventures I’ve had though. At university, despite mixed relationships with some of the tutors, I made friends with certain writers, which have stayed with me until this time and taught me more than some of the tutors did. These writers, some of whom I don’t read anymore, set the foundations that what I did after university. I brought out my first book ‘Return to Kemptown’, then my second, ‘The End of Summer’. I literally had dozens of other adventures, all of which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had a breakdown, then went to university.
*The blog mentioned is: here
Andy N is the Author of three full poetry collections (the most recent is ‘The Birth of Autumn’ which was published in 2018) and numerous split poetry books. He is also the creator of the Barbarians of the Wall and Role Reversal series, and the editor and creator of the Spoken Label podcast series. With his partner, he co-hosts the Reading in Bed podcast, which reviews a selection of books each month.
His official website is: http://onewriterandhispc.blogspot.com