One Year In: 2021 in Review

It’s Epiphany today, Christmas is over, the new year doesn’t start today but it’s as good a day as any for reflecting on the last twelve months.

I’ve been writing here at nuakh for about a year now. I’ve written 94 posts, almost exactly 100,000 words of work, some of which have been shared and read widely. I’ve built a small following of email subscribers who regularly read my work.

We all love a year end list, so here are a few for you:

My 5 most read blog posts

  1. Reclaiming Friendship
  2. Learning from the hours
  3. On reading
  4. Commercialising Church
  5. The liturgy of social media

My favourite pieces of my writing

  1. Jesus search for a wife, written for Theopolis
  2. Learning from the hours
  3. After death, life
  4. Dust
  5. Around the Table

My books of the year

I read 70 books last year, you can see the whole list here if you’re interested in that sort of thing, ranking the best is a difficult task, but here are the ten that stayed with me:

  1. Strange Rites. Tara Isabella Burton. Helpful for thinking about the forms modern religiosity takes and the stories that are dominant. I wrote about it here.
  2. Rhythm of War. Brandon Sanderson. A great yarn from a master-storyteller. Fourth in a series so don’t start here.
  3. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord. L. Michael Morales. Superb Biblical-Theological exploration of the themes of Leviticus.
  4. Republic. Plato. Surprised how readable this was, and began to see what Augustine sees in him.
  5. Piranesi. Susanna Clarke. A fun novel, that takes up residence in the imagination and allows its mystery to breed.
  6. 1 & 2 Chronicles. Peter Leithart. Best commentary I read cover-to-cover this year. Enjoyed this devotionally.
  7. New Testament Biblical Theology. G. K. Beale. Huge book, wonderful scholarship, well worth the investment of time.
  8. God of All Things. Andrew Wilson. Vintage Wilson.
  9. Turning of Days. Hannah Anderson. Reading the book of nature, reading the seasons, living in time. It’s beautiful too.
  10. The Death of Porn. Ray Ortlund. Surprised myself by how much this moved me. An invitation to men to be heroes.

The best article I read this year

I keep being drawn back to Paul Kingsnorth’s The Cross and the Machine. If you haven’t read it, it’s a stunning piece of writing.

My projects

I’ve also posted some longer pieces here at Nuakh that aren’t blog posts—my work on Gen Z and my work on the Plot of the Psalms.

You can find the paper I wrote on Gen Z to download here. This is an attempt to capture a snapshot of the research literature and describe a generation in four pages. It is, by its nature, limited, but I think does the job it’s trying to do well: give pastors better questions. I have more answers than I did have, but I’m not sure I could answer the questions I finish the paper with yet. One the things I’d like to do this year is tackle each of those in writing.

I also wrote an essay trying to capture the Plot of the Psalms. After noticing that the Psalms are structured deliberately and have a story of their own, I spent the summer trying to piece this together—you can read my attempt at the link. There’s more to say here too.

Developing nuakh

I’m called to write, and that might just mean tap away on the keyboard on my free wordpress blog forever more. If it does, OK. I have aspirations to go further than that—what writer doesn’t?

I’m realistic enough to understand that earning a living through writing Christian material in the UK is not unlikely, it’s flat out impossible. Nobody does. Some in America might manage it, but that’s simply not where we are.

Nevertheless, I’d like to see whether it’s possible to earn some money from my writing. A trusted, and much more prominent, writer has encouraged me to pitch to editors—primarily as a way of improving my thinking and writing, but if I’m successful that may bring a small amount of remuneration. Even if it doesn’t hopefully it brings clarity to my thinking and writing.

This is where you come in, dear friends. As you might have noticed I’ve improved the website a bit—a proper domain name and a lack of ads. I’m not sure I can afford to keep paying for hosting longer term, but I’m asking you to partner with me.

I want to keep my writing free. I’d like to keep making resources like my guide to the Psalms’ story, and I’d like to keep releasing them for free. That’s foolish in terms of trying to make a living, but we don’t commercialise Bible teaching. Yes, the labourer deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5), which means you should make sure your pastors and staff are remunerated well and your preachers who aren’t on staff are honoured appropriately (which may mean financially). But we also offer it all for free to any who come in. I think the same principle applies here.

If you appreciate what I write and would like to contribute you can sign up to support me monthly via Patreon or see some other ways to support me here. My aim, for what it’s worth, is to see if I can fund the cost of this website through supporter donations. I’ve got further ideas, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

If you appreciate what I write but can’t afford to do that, or simply don’t want to, please keep reading. Everything here is for you as much as it’s for anyone else. But there is a way you can help: when you like my writing, share it.

Send the piece to your friends, like or share or retweet the post on Twitter or Facebook, put the post in your story on Instagram. We all know how the algorithms work by now, your like makes a significant difference. If you mostly come via Facebook consider adding my pages to your ‘favourites’ so it actually shows up in your newsfeed.

If you don’t want to do any of that, you’re still welcome, friends. I hope what I write is helpfully in forming you towards Jesus.

What have I learned?

I said I started this website to learn how to write. I’m no longer sure that you read a point you could claim counts as having ‘learned’ writing. But I’ve learned a few things along the way:

  1. Writing requires a regular rhythm, and time set aside for it.
  2. I need to make notes when inspiration strikes.
  3. Ideas are not the problem, but many of my ideas are bad.
  4. Even then, good ideas are not the problem, but my ability to do them justice in writing is.
  5. I’m glad I committed to cold takes, for all it hamstrings my ability to grow and develop a following: it’s good for my soul, and it’s good for my rhythm.
  6. Feedback as a writer is non-existent unless you seek it. If you like something, tell me. If you disagree, comment on the socials. Let’s start a conversation.
  7. My most read pieces are often not the topics I’m most interested in writing about—this is a constant tension.
  8. I’m more uncomfortable with ‘click-bait’ than I thought, and yet you need it to drive traffic.
  9. I can’t not write.

One year in, we’re still going. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter. Consider sharing your favourite post with a friend. But whether you do or not, stick around, there’s plenty more to come.