2022 in Review: The difficult second album

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 appreciate I’m a little behind the curve here, but I did it last year and so this now makes it a tradition. It’s the (approximate) anniversary of starting nuakh so it seems appropriate to me.

I’ve been writing here at nuakh for two years now. Long enough that I think we can safely say it’s not a phase, and it’s sustainable for me. I’ve continued to publish twice a week, leaving me with around 200,000 words of work on the site—and that’s before we add in the papers I share here and the articles I’ve written elsewhere. I’ve increased my following of email subscribers who regularly read my work and have a small band of Patreon subscribers who support the site financially.

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

My 5 most read blog posts

  1. The Sugar-Coating
  2. Hope has to be learned
  3. Embracing Limits
  4. My Hundred Homes
  5. A Conveyor Belt

My favourite pieces of my writing

  1. The Naming of Eve
  2. Is the Church a Family?
  3. In Between Two Trees
  4. Water is Thicker than Blood
  5. The Land of the Living

If you have a favourite that wasn’t in those lists, do please let me know! My favourite ever post remains Learning from the hours from last year.

My books of the year

I read 76 books last year, you can see the whole list here if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Ranking the best is always difficult task, but here are the ten that stayed with me:

  1. The Anglo-Saxons. Marc Morris. Narrative driven history of the early medieval period. I love reading about what we might (anachronistically) call ‘early England’ and particularly our Christian origins. Good fun.
  2. Luminous Dark. Alain Emerson. A memoir of a man grieving his wife. This is wonderfully raw and transmits how he felt very well. I would differ on some theology but found it profoundly helpful.
  3. A Tale of Three Kings. Gene Edwards. A strange little book about handling leadership conflict. Not for everyone, it needs to (in a friend’s words) ‘come to you at the right time.’
  4. Shattered Dreams. Larry Crabb. A Christian psychologist explains why we need our dreams shattering by God. Lots of this has turned up in posts here at nuakh.
  5. From Bread to Wine. James B. Jordan. I’m a big Jordan fan, he can be wild but he makes me think. The material in this book on human maturing has been in my thinking for several months now.
  6. That Hideous Strength. C. S. Lewis. I’d not read the Space Trilogy before, and this final volume stands in for all three. Both the sense of the world as part of an angelically-suffused cosmos and the chilling predictions of the smallness of ‘progress’ have stuck with me.
  7. A Secular Age. Charles Taylor. A very big and difficult book. Yet if we want to think about and critique culture, required reading.
  8. Scripture as Real Presence. Hans Boersma. Probably my favourite of this list. Boersma argues for the Church Father’s hermeneutic being ‘sacramental’ in line with his wider project. Worth reading by preachers who want an invitation into an older (and richer?) way of reading the Bible.
  9. Invisible Divides. Natalie Williams. An account from a working-class Christian of their experience within majority middle-class churches in the UK. This is the biggest and most important divide in the church here, required reading for pastors. Lots of it is relevant to other axes of difference too.
  10. Why We Are Restless. Benjamin & Jenna Storey. I finished this just before Christmas, but it’s absolutely stunning. Easier to access than Taylor (though not ‘easy’), an account of why modern life has made us restless. It’s a ‘how we got here’ story rather than a ‘how to fix it’ story, but it’s compelling and explains much of how we live now.

The best articles I read this year

The two that I’m still thinking about are Jon Askonas’ Why Conservatism Failed and Paul Kingsnorth’s Last Post for Christian England, but probably the best piece of writing was Severe Mercies and Magnanimous Despair by Jeffrey Bilbro.

Articles and Projects

My writing focus for this year has been on getting articles written and published elsewhere. This was after I was given some advice by a well-known writer who was kind with their time: they advised me that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to work with editors. Which means you need to pitch articles.

I’ve published three articles this year in other magazines or journals:

‘Why People Don’t Leave Social Media’ at Mere Orthodoxy in February, ‘Feasting with Elisha’ at Theopolis in July, and ‘Reading the Bible Together: A Personal Testimony’ at Gospel-Centered Discipleship in September.

Some of which I pitched to other places first. The rejections (some of them at least), contained helpful feedback that made the final articles better.

I had hoped to at least pitch more ideas than I managed to. Life, as it has a habit of doing, got in the way. You might see those ideas appear this year, but we will have to see how it pans out.

Oh, I also published a poem with another being published in January.

Developing as a writer

I’ve written more on the topics you’re coming to expect from me by now: the importance of stories and tables in remaking the world in the image of Christ. Expect more of that to come in the future, these topics stretch out in multiple directions into our churches and cultures.

I’ve also written on a new topic for me this year: suffering. These pieces have generally been well received so again expect the topic to continue into 2023. I don’t think many evangelicals have good theologies of suffering, and we desperately need them. At some point I’ll tell some of my own story as to why I’ve had to dig into the deep wells of the scriptures here, but one thing at a time.

Other topics may emerge this year, but my blogging is more ‘organic’ than it is planned, so we’ll see how things develop.

There’s a lot else I’d like to do and say, but I’m limited by the time I have available for now at least. If you’re able to support my work, that would be greatly appreciated. One of my goals this year is to attempt some concrete steps to develop myself in the direction of my aspirations: I’m currently at the planning stages. Remember me in your prayers.

Developing nuakh

I wrote in my round-up post last year about my desire to develop the site further—I’d moved away from free hosting so the site looks nicer and has its own address—and my wider aspirations as a writer.

I’ve taken a baby step forward this year, having published some articles and also growing my Patreon supporters. We’re talking about a modest number of very kind people who support this site and my work, month-by-month. Practically they pay for (most of) my hosting. One of my goals this year would be to make the site truly self-supporting.

Substacks are a growing trend, where reading someone’s blog requires a subscription. I’m neither naïve enough to imagine that many of my readers are that attached to my writing that it’s a good idea, nor am I ideologically on board with paywalls. I want my work to be free, if you would pay if you had to, why not consider joining the Patreon crew and helping keep this free (and looking nice!) for everyone.

Most Christians expect good content to be free. I think that’s probably always been the case, but it means that all theological reflection runs on patronage rather than a commercial model. If you like the way I think and would like to help me develop further, do prayerfully consider becoming a patron at a level you can afford.

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 here 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 helpful 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 reach a point you could claim counts as having ‘learned’ writing. But I’ve learned a few things along the way:

  1. Some of my writing is getting better.
  2. It’s easier to recognise my good writing than it was, but not to write it.
  3. Readers’ opinions of ‘good writing’ differ wildly. And that’s OK.
  4. Click-bait titles work. I can’t bring myself to not contradict the title within the first few paragraphs, however.
  5. No one wants to read cold takes on topical issues. That’s OK too.
  6. The solution to writer’s block is writing.
  7. It’s hard to write when you’re emotionally exhausted. The solution to this is not writing.
  8. Things I wrote months ago often minister to me today—there’s a delightful irony there.
  9. Writing allows me to figure out what I think about things.

Two years 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: God willing, there’s plenty more to come.

To subscribe and receive email notifications for future posts, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

Would you like to support my work? The best thing you can do is share this post with your friends. Why not consider also joining my Patreon to keep my writing free for everyone. You can see other ways to support me here.