Award-winning writer and current senior editor and blogger for The Atlantic inspired students by discussing his ideas about writing.
As part of the David Osborne Lecture Series, funded by the English department, Ta-Nehisi Coates visited Ohio Wesleyan on April 21.
The series provides opportunities for first-year writing students and others to learn about some of the challenges of being a writer.
Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, which is a memoir of his childhood as a black American in Baltimore.
During the talk, Coates discussed how black American writers influence his writing. Coates said, “one of the most influential pieces of writing I encountered while growing up was James Baldwin.”
Coates said, “We didn’t get the chance to bear witness to the great American disputes that fought for our rights, and therefore I wanted to have a say in writing my own history and portraying the truth in the purest form.”
Coates explained that his need for writing “started with a need to do something and make a change.” A large majority of Coates writing discusses growing up as a black American and the challenges and lessons that came with it.
“It’s okay to be inspired by other people; it’s good to take literary inspiration from other things,” he explained to students.
The main focus of Coates’ presentation was explaining to students the importance of writing for the correct reasons and finding joy in writing. “I want students to share the romance or pleasure of writing and not focus on the business side of writing because you have to. I think a lot of people lose sight of the romance and pleasure of writing.”
Coates said he has “always had a love for reading and writing. I would cut class and go to the library.”
“I often question why things are the way they are for African Americans today, this is what often drives a lot of my writing,” Coates said.
Senior Mariah Bockbrader said “It was inspiring to hear someone who is not only good at writing, but who makes writing his passion and his life. I could tell that he writes more for enjoyment than for his career. It was definitely a message that everyone needs to hear: writing is a beautiful process and shouldn’t be a dreadful prospect. We should be looking at our papers as a way to improve our writing and as a way to garner creativity.”
Coates was a unanimous decision to bring to campus. Assistant professor of English Nancy Comorau said, “the department has a meeting for possible speakers for the David Osborne Lecture Series. Because we had a little extra endowment money than usual, I brought him up in the meeting.”
From there Comorau “hunted down his agency and he luckily had time to come to campus.”
The Osborne Lecture Series is a common event geared towards freshman students in English 105. Comorau said “we hope these events brought to campus can help students think through their writing and the process.”
“Him being here spoke to a lot of different groups of students on campus. What he does and the conversation he has gets to the very spirit of liberal arts. It’s not just a question of appealing to everyone but appealing to different interests, but having them all connect,” Comorau said.
Following his visit to OWU, Coates headed to speak at Johns Hopkins University.