Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Writing in 2023: 120,000 words spread over 28 outputs

Writing is a significant part of my current vocation.

And writing is a challenge. The ability to compile evidence and shape an argument in ways that attend to detail and fill in a big picture is an exacting process.

Writing is also always a vulnerable process. Organisational psychologist Adam Grant suggests that the best way to gauge the quality of someone’s ideas is not to listen to them talk but to read their writing. Most of us can only hold 3 or 4 thoughts in our heads. So charisma and verbal gymnastics can mask weak logic.

In contrast, developing thoughts on paper allows someone to read page 5 and then flick back to page 1 to check if I am being consistent. Hence, writing makes us vulnerable because it exposes our ability to think.

words written in 2023

Stepping into a new year of work, it is good to reflect on the writing challenges of the year past. In 2023, I made myself vulnerable with 28 different written outputs, nearly 120,000 words. These included

  • 2 academic book chapters
  • 2 academic funding bids
  • 4 other academic outputs
  • 5 commissioned research reports
  • 10 film reviews
  • 5 magazine columns

Word wise, most of my output (76%, some 90,000 words across 5 outputs) was on research commissioned by organisations in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. As part of professional benchmarking, I also offer academic contributions (16%, some 18,800 words across 8 outputs). Aware that academia involves paywalls, I also look for popular outlets (8%, some 9,250 across 15 outputs).

Breaking down the 28 outputs in more detail …

Book chapters (2)

  • “Douglas Coupland, Charles Taylor, and Spirituality in Modernity,” an academic book chapter (5000 words), co-written with Tony Watkins. This piece of writing began life through a 2021 conference presentation, which is due for publication in an edited volume on artist and writer Douglas Coupland with Bloomsbury (UK) in 2024.
  • “Mission in digital cultures: Opportunities and challenges in a mundane co-mission,” an academic book chapter (5000 words) for the Oxford Handbook of Digital Theology. Two conference presentations in 2022 helped develop ideas. Written in February 2023 and revised in September 2023, this should be published in an edited volume with Oxford University Press in 2024.

Academic funding bids (2)
Seeking international funding for research involves writing, and has particular challenges in linking research approaches and plans with funder aspirations.

  • “Digital activism as justice-making. Evaluating decolonial public theologies on Christian social media platforms” was a research bid that gained funding and research support from the University of Edinburgh, planned for June and July 2024.
  • “Race and justice in Glasgow’s mission history: a reappraisal of South Sea missionary networks and their relationships to “blackbirding” was a research bid submitted to the University of Glasgow Library Visiting Research Fellowship (awaiting decision). The application was built on a successful 2022 application and seeks to extend the archival work I did in August and September of 2023.

Other academic contributions including book reviews, journal editorial and online article (4)

  • A book review of Keeping Faith: How Christian organisations can stay true to the way of Jesus, by Stephen Judd, John Swinton and Kara Martin, was published in Australian Journal of Mission Studies in December 2023
  • A book review of Constructing Mission History: Missionary Initiative and Indigenous Agency in the Making of World Christianity by Stanley H. Skreslet for the Anvil Journal of Theology and Mission
  • Editorial for the December 2023 issue of Ecclesial Futures, an open-access academic journal I co-edit with Nigel Rooms.
  • “Compassionate Collaboration, Christian Mission and the Bank of Dave” was a conversation between contemporary culture and theologies of social innovation. This began as a written film review, then a spoken sermon, and finally a written output submitted to Practical Theology Hub on October (and published online in January 2024).

Commissioned research reports (5)

In my work for AngelWings, I provide high-quality research for organisations and agencies. The research is co-designed, with results provided as written reports for boards and key leaders.

  • Theological education and ministry training review – working with a colleague to develop a 20-year framework for theological education and ministry training. A report of 55,000 words was delivered in April 2023, along with four six page summaries
  • Evaluation of innovation – assessment of an initiative to bring congregations and a social service agency closer together. A report of 9,100 words along with a two page press release was delivered in October 2023.
  • Missional needs and opportunities review – working with two colleagues to review how a denominational group resources mission. A 12,500-word report was delivered in July 2023.
  • Property use – an 8,200 word report documenting stakeholder perceptions relating to sale of property and mission was delivered in December 2023.
  • Educational consultation – A 5,500-word report peer reviewing a new higher education initiative was delivered in November 2023.

Together, these 5 outputs total 90,000 words. That’s a lot of ink. Because this research is commissioned, what is written belongs to the governance boards that provide the funding. However, I continue to explore avenues by which elements of my commissioned research that have public interest could be reworked.

Film reviews (10)
Monthly I watch a movie and write a 500 word film review for Touchstone, a Methodist denominational magazine. I enjoy the discipline of writing to honour the integrity of a film in conversation with theology and ethics and in 2023, provided ten film reviews.

Zadok columns (5)
Quarterly I contribute a column for an Australian magazine, offering Christian reflection on various contemporary issues. So, in 2023, to meet deadlines, I provided five 850-word contributions.

Posted by steve at 12:04 PM

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