Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book We Were Eight Years In Power is eight previously published Atlantic essays each preceded by a new piece of writing that describes Coates’s intellectual, financial, and emotional state at the time of the piece, and musings on the Obama years. The eight new essays trace his journey from what he says is his “failure” as a writer to the groundbreaking and and award-winning trio of “The Case For Reparations,” Between The World And Me, and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”
He spoke to Deadspin earlier this week about that journey, his quiet return to watching football, how being a man in the post-Harvey Weinstein era has taught him what it’s like to be white, and much more.
Deadspin: Right at the beginning of your book, you talk about the Cosby article and how it was in some ways a “failure.” And daily blogging is great because you can fail all the time—you write again that day, or the next day. How has writing changed for you now that you can’t do that, that you can’t fail publicly now?
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Oh, I think you still can. And I think you still will. I think all writers do. The only question is, are you gonna admit it or not? That’s the real difference. But you’re gonna fail. There’s just no way around that. I don’t know how one finishes their career and feels like “every piece of published writing I have is a success.” I do think it’s true that the writing that’s published in a book or in a magazine tends to be more finished, fact-checked, copy edited and all of that, but failure better be a part of your process if you’re trying to grow.
Oh, I meant you specifically. I know I can fail, I screwed up a blog last week.
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