Friday, September 15, 2023
Season 2, Episode 18:
Navigating the Challenges of Manuscript Writing & Publishing in Public Health Part 1
In part 1 of this episode, we are talking with Chioma Nnaji about navigating the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing, how we found purpose through writing, and how you can uncover your motivation to amplify the impact of your public health work.
Season 2, Episode 18: Navigating the Challenges of Writing & Publishing in Public Health Part 1
Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.
I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In part 1 of today’s episode, we are talking with Chioma Nnaji about navigating the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing, how we found purpose through writing, and how you can uncover your motivation to amplify the impact of your public health work.
This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!
Serving your community is central to public health. But what happens when particular communities are excluded from certain spaces? Or are prevented from being included in important research? These are some of the key questions that today’s guest, Chioma Nnaji, MEd, MPH, has grappled with on her journey as an organizer, community health worker, and researcher. Today’s episode features part one of our conversation with Chioma, where we explore how to navigate the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing in public health. Chioma has been in public health for more than two decades, with her work in HIV/AIDS living at the intersections of public health, racial justice, and immigrant rights.
Tuning into part one, you’ll learn about Chioma’s extensive journey navigating the challenges of manuscript writing, the difficulties inherent to publishing community-defined work, and how she and host, Joyee Washington, decided to form a partnership intended to help others on their writing and publishing journeys. We cover the free training on offer from the newly established Script Lab for Public Health before unpacking how they help participants determine the purpose of their manuscripts and amplify the impact of their public health work. Today’s conversation is ideal listening for anyone interested in the manuscript writing and publishing process — especially if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed! Chioma has a deep passion for her work and her community. Listen in to hear her many powerful insights, and be sure to tune in for part two!
Links mentioned in this episode:
For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit https://joyeewashington.com
- Who Chioma is, what she does, and the organizations and communities she serves. [01:57]
- Her work at the intersection of immigrant rights and racial justice in public health. [04:34]
- Unpacking how to apply intersectionality work within public health. [08:26]
- How communities are often intentionally excluded from certain spaces. [13:18]
- Chioma’s early community-defined work and the challenge of getting it published. [14:13]
- United We Rise as a Black-led intersectional movement. [15:43]
- The value of manuscript writing and publishing as a contribution to this field. [17:36]
- Chioma’s first manuscript, her partners, and how they were able to get it published. [19:39]
- The challenges of writing a manuscript within public health. [21:46]
- Chioma’s experience with community-academic partnerships. [25:53]
- The partnerships and support that she wants to bring to public health. [27:23]
- Joyee and Chioma’s partnership in creating The Script Lab for Public Health. [29:09]
- Who The Script Lab for Public Health is intended to serve. [29:58]
- The writing process and how to get started when writing a manuscript. [31:08]
- How we help participants determine the purpose of their manuscript [35:08]
- An overview of the free training being offered by The Script Lab for Public Health. [36:10]
- Find out how you can participate in our next free training and join the Script Squad. [38:41]
- Be sure to tune in for part two on navigating the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing! [39:47]
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[0:00:58] JW: Welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast. Today, we have a very special guest because y’all know I like to call both my homies, so I feel like this guest and I our own homie level at this point. So we have Chioma Nnaji, who serves as a Senior Program Director at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition in Boston, where she leads work in community-engaged research, capacity-building trainings, and community mobilization. Also, she founded Ocha Transformations, LLC, which consults with organizations and communities on ways to incorporate anti-racist approaches and community-engaged processes in work addressing health inequities. Now, before we even get started, we got to give a special shout-out to the shirt that Chioma is wearing today. This is all you need to know about Chioma. This is all you need to know.
[0:01:57] CN: It does say it all. I am anti-everything that attempts to oppress and destroy Black people. That’s really been my life. I’ve been very clear since the beginning, or whatever about. It is not an exclusive; it’s all about sort of understanding. What Bell Hooks talks about is the centers of margins, understanding that when you work at in the margins, work at the margins, then you’re able to support and better the lives of everybody. Because you are working with individuals who are in the most need. That automatically supports everybody having some level of basic their basic living, their needs being met.
[0:02:42] JW: Exactly. I will say I usually like to tell how I met my guest. When it came to Chioma, I met Chioma through United We Rise, and I’m going to let you share about United We Rise. But I had your –
[0:02:59] CN: Which is all about Black people.
[0:03:02] JW: Right. Y’all had a call for facilitators to help with the convening. I was like, I was in the early stages of my consulting business. I was like, “I want to do this, so I’m going to go for it.” I think – I don’t even think y’all originally chose me if I remember correctly.
[0:03:20] CN: I don’t remember.
[0:03:21] JW: I don’t think I was originally chosen to be a facilitator, but I think I didn’t hear back or something, and so I reached out to you to say, “Hey, I was just following up. I submitted this application but hadn’t heard back.” And you were like, “Oh, we had somebody who dropped out or couldn’t do it or something.”
[0:03:38] CN: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. Okay. Now, I remember, yes, yes, yes.
[0:03:42] JW: You were like, “I think we have a spot available.” I was like, “Okay.” And that was my introduction to you. And I think ever since then, it was a really great experience. I enjoyed seeing you lead. I think that was really important for me to see at that point of my journey and thought – I know I haven’t told you that before.
[0:04:08] CN: You should have. Are you about to make me cry?
[0:04:11] JW: I thought about it now, and I was like, I think that was a really important experience for me to see you in that position, leading and seeing the work that you all are doing. I’m going to hand it over to you, though. You can share more about your experience in United We Rise and the Multicultural AIDS Coalition, all your wonderful [inaudible 0:04:32], Ocha Transformations. Tell us all about it?
[0:04:34] CN: Well, that’s a lot to tell. But first, thank you for having me on this podcast. I do think like that initial moment that we met, everything else has just been happening organically. I mean, we find ourselves in the similar spaces. I’ve always said if somebody comes in your life that many times, that means you and that person wants to connect on something, on some level. A lot of my work is at the intersection of immigrant rights, racial justice work in public health. When I started my work in HIV, and AIDS, and sexual health, it was a very humble beginning. I started at age 21 or so, didn’t know nothing. Just came out of school, finished my master’s in public health. And you know how you think you have all these theories, you have all these strategies, you have all these, and then you get into working in community, and they’re like, “Let me just check you up right quick, and get you right on.”
[0:05:29] JW: Like I kicked you in the face.
[0:05:31] CN: [Inaudible 0:05:31] A whole bunch of folks kicked you in the face. Like, let me just get you right. Out of love, right? Out of love. So I mean, I started my public health journey literally as a community health worker, and I still call myself a community health worker. Because it’s all about always wanting to connect people to services and what they need. I think community health workers are sort of the linchpin of our workforce in a lot of ways. Whether they’re at the hospital, whether they’re working within community, whether they’re working at a community health center, wherever. I think they’re the linchpin of our work.
So yes, I started that way. At the same organization, I started that, at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition. There’s pluses and minuses in working in a small grassroots organization. The plus is that we always have to be innovative and creative. The plus is that we’ll always going to be close to community because many of us reflect the communities that we serve. The challenge is that you’re always looking for how to grow, and you’re always going to be in advocacy mode. Because typically, in grassroots organizations, you’re doing the work, and you’re talking about the things that nobody wants to do and talk about.
That’s how I learned the importance of speaking up, the importance of leaning on community, leaning on people who know because they know, and it’s not about sort of what they read in the book, or this theory, or this sort of whatever. It’s like, they know what they know because they lived it, period. They’re experts in their own lives. Being able to work with that, to develop programs, to think about research, to think about advocacy platforms, movement work, and I’ve just really been able to define who I am in my work, by just the day-to-day hustle, and being able to have beautiful people in my life who continue to challenge me, and support me, and growing.
[0:07:27] JW: Yes. I think that’s important, and thinking about, number one, like you said, community members, their lived experiences, they can teach us so much more [inaudible 0:07:36]. And making sure that we understand that when we’re working with communities, it’s a two-way street. So often, people tend to, like you said earlier, we go into communities thinking, “Oh, we’re going to help you solve your problems.” We come in with this deficit mindset, and we have people who are like, “Look, you don’t live this life every day, I do.” So how do we start rethinking our positions, whether we are public health researchers or public health practitioners? How do we start rethinking how we fit into this world, and how we fit into these relationships, our community members, and what does that mean for us, and for our field, and being in our field.
[0:08:26] CN: And I think it’s a little bit different for Black folks, Black and brown folks. Because in public health, we’re always dealing with those social inequities. We know, whatever field you’re working in, that brown and Black folks aren’t doing so well, for structural reasons, for intersecting sort of oppression, all those reasons, not because we’re brown and Black folks. Because of the historical and current oppressions that continue to be a part of the systems that that we have to interact with every day.
One of the things that I definitely had to learn, and figure out how to balance is, how am I from the community that I’m working within and working for, and how do I do that in a way in which my lived experience is just as valuable and understanding that just because we Black, just because you’re Black, and I’m Black, don’t mean that we have the same experience, and the same struggles. At the Multicultural AIDS Coalition, one of the things I love and continue to love about the Multicultural AIDS Coalition is we were doing intersectionality work before it became a trend. Not before Black Feminists named it, because Black Feminists named that as part of the Feminist Movement. But we were doing sort of what does it look like in practice for a long time.
We knew that because we’re dealing with Black folks, we think about Black folks, and all these various dynamics, and identities, then we need to have programs that represent the way in which Black folks are being sort of – are being represented within society, are being defined within society, and some of the struggles that look different. We have programs for Black LGBTQ folks, Black and Latinx, LGBTQ folks. Understanding that that intersection of sexism, heterosexism, being anti-Black, all those intersections are what they’re dealing with. In a general level, I’m saying this in the general level.
Then we have a program for African immigrants. It’s one of the programs that I started at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition. That recognizes that when we talk about Black immigrants, we cannot leave out the issues and the ways in which immigration is a social determinant of health, the way in which immigration determines what people have access people to, and what they don’t have access to. So, being able to just be in that space while I was working with folks who identify as part of the LGBTQ spectrum, folks who are immigrants, people living with HIV, women who were sex workers, women struggling with mental health, all these dynamics. It really forces you to say, “Okay, what works based on what are the strengths within these communities and the resources that we can bring?”
Because these communities, like you said, are not in a deficit. In public health, we have a bad habit of talking about communities as a deficit because of a lot of reasons. I ain’t going to get into that. But being able to say, “Okay, where’s the innovation here? Where’s the creativity here? How is the stress within communities really sort of determining what we need to do in order to sort of support individuals and families?
[0:11:41] JW: And you make a really good point about the intersectionality piece. When we’re thinking about our community members, when we are thinking about our work that we do, we have to consider that things impact Black and brown folks differently. We face a different level of challenges. We have to take into consideration the oppression, the discrimination, the history of where we’re in and where we come from. So I think the intersectionality piece is an important part that often gets left out of conversations that need to be had. The intersectionality is that buzzword for a lot of people. Equity is a buzzword for a lot.
[0:12:29] CN: Community engagement is a buzzword. It’s a whole lot of buzzwords out there.
[0:12:33] JW: Yes, [inaudible 0:12:35] a buzzword. So, how do we move out of the buzzword? And who’s doing the real work? And how do we identify who’s doing the real work? And how do we find out about that work? Where do we read about the work that’s being done in communities? Where do we get our information? Who’s disseminating the information, sharing the information, and sharing the stories? Where do we find that? How does that process happen? How do we share the knowledge about what’s happened? So those aren’t just buzzwords, but these are the people who are actually doing the work.
[0:13:18] CN: I think I had to learn that there’s various ways in which that happens. It really depends on sort of who you want your audience to be and how you want to use the information that’s been sort of cultivated, right? Because, I mean, our community networks, we have ways in which we talk to each other and get things moving. I mean, we couldn’t have grassroots movements if that was the case. Civil Rights movement could happen if that wasn’t the case. But really trying to figure out how are we able to be present and hold position in various spaces where knowledge is cultivated, right? Too often, communities are, I think, intentionally left out of certain spaces and for reasons like not aligning with the way in which certain sectors feel as though knowledge should be curated.
We learn in public health evidence-based, evidence-based, evidence-based. A lot of my work was really what I call community-defined; even so my earlier work that I published in manuscripts was community-defined. It made it very challenging to get published because there wasn’t some evidence-based theory that I was using. There wasn’t some hardcore, scientific, rigorous evaluation that was done. I mean, all these ways in which knowledge is defined to a certain group. I think also not creating spaces that allow knowledge to be curated differently.
We talk a lot about like, speaking about United We Rise. United We Rise has this saying around couch conversations. We use this as a way to say like, in Black communities sitting at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch and having these conversations, that’s what you have the serious conversation, or that’s where you get the wisdom, and the knowledge from your grandparents. Or at the kitchen table, that’s where you’re having like those, “All right. We’ve got to have a family meeting.” Where that family meeting happen? At the kitchen table.
[0:15:32] JW: With all the kids on the couch.
[0:15:35] CN: Right.
[0:15:36] JW: And mama bear stand before you, and say, “I know we got to talk about. What’s going on?”
[0:15:43] CN: Yes. I mean, being able to recognize again those strengths, and those ways in which we cultivate knowledge is just as valid as a scientific research project. Just as valid. And speak a lot to some of those nuances, and those things that make things work. That’s the technical term. Things that make things work. So yes, I’ve appreciated the work with United We Rise. I mean, you stepped in at a time where we were really in the space of defining what we wanted to do. United We Rise is a Black-led intersectional movement, where 30 to 40 organizations come together. Individuals, and organizations, Black folks come together to really answer the question, what would the HIV/AIDS – what would be the response to HIV/AIDS look like if it was led by Black people? Not only are we having conversations about it, but we’re actually putting action to that. What we recognized as being able to build that takes time. It took us a year and a half to just to build foundation, just to build like, what are we really talking about here, y’all? What are our values here? What do we want to say are our absolutes, non-negotiables? Our planning committee is only Black folks. That’s a non-negotiable. Only Black folks.
When you step in the room with us at United We Rise, we’re talking about Black folks. We talk about all the beauty and all the differences within Black folks, but we’re talking about Black folks. So, what are our sort of non-negotiables? Even how we spend our money are non-negotiables. We always are going to look for Black businesses and support Black businesses. All of the facilitators were Black folks that had their own Black business, that we promoted as United We Rise. These are just values that are important to the movement work.
[0:17:36] JW: I want to go back to what you mentioned about manuscript writing, right? And then thinking about sharing the knowledge, sharing the conversations at the couch or at the kitchen table. It’s like, those experiences are valid, and how do we get those types of experiences in the peer-reviewed journals, in academia, in all these different places, or just out to the community? Because we have been trained to believe that a peer-reviewed journal article is the only way to build credibility or to share your knowledge. It’s one way, but it’s not the only way. You have to know very particularly who is your audience, and what message are you trying to convey. When it comes to manuscript writing and publishing, it can be challenging. Manuscript writing and publishing is important. It’s an important part of our public health work, but it can also be extremely challenging. So you in your experience, what has manuscript writing and publishing done for you all’s work?
[0:18:45] CN: Well, I mean, it took me a while to realize it’s important. It took me a while, like I don’t even – my thesis for my master’s, my chairperson was trying to get me to publish. I was like, “That’s a waste of my time. I got other stuff to do.” Like I got to go educate these people about HIV, and putting on a condom, and I stuff to do. Like my people are literally dying. I got stuff to do. So it took me a while to realize the importance or how I can utilize it based on my own values and my goals. So it’s been up and down sort of journey, where I’m very clear right now, I’m very clear on what the role of manuscript writing and publishing can do for my sort of passion, and my career, and what I want to give in this world.
My first manuscript was published I think in 2014. It was published based on a community-defined intervention. It was a community-defined intervention that we did, is called the African Health Cup. Literally, it came from – in my program, Africans for improve access program, realizing that we have all these women, we have women getting tested for HIV, we have women testing positive for HIV. We know within African immigrant community, particularly, that most transmissions are through heterosexual sex. So they’re having sex with males, so what’s going on? Why aren’t we having men coming in getting tested? Why aren’t we having sort of the same testing levels? Testing rates, I should say.
So my colleague, Augustus Warrior was like, “Well, let’s do a soccer tournament, let’s do some testing. Let’s do some education.” And even as a grassroots organization, we are a grassroots organization, we still went in and said to community like, “We need you all to partner and help us figure this out.” Even as a grassroots org, there’s levels to community. So, we were able to bring in local African cultures of soccer teams, captains, and really developed this intervention. The reason why it moved from sort of the work to being unpublished is because we had someone who was committed to us knowing how to move from work to publish, right? We had someone committed to teaching us sort of the ins and outs of what that looks like. But that was the moment where I started saying, “Oh, well, maybe this is something that I can actually apply as part of my public health career.”
[0:21:24] JW: I think, for me, I’m kind of the opposite, because I’m already in the biomedical sciences. I told you, I’d publish whatever all we do. Publishing is the mark of everything. My field was physiology and biophysics. It’s like, if you’re not publishing, what are you doing?
[0:21:42] CN: What are you doing? It could be your whole career, like –
[0:21:46] JW: Like, why are you even here if you are in publishing? I knew the importance of publishing. Even when I was an undergrad, I had to complete an honors thesis, which I considered to be kind of my first manuscript in a sense, because it was published and put in the library. My first kind of manuscript, it wasn’t in a peer-reviewed journal, but it was a manuscript that was put in the library. I remember just going through the process of trying to collect this data, and trying to write it up, and trying to make it make sense, and having to go through the editing process. Even just trying to figure out how to write and publish within my school was challenging.
I think the other part of it that makes it challenging for me, and thinking about as Black and brown folks, this system was not intended for us. It wasn’t intended for us. So trying to navigate the challenges nobody explained to me, this is step by step how you do it, how you write it, how you publish it, how you get it ready, how you edit it, how you make it ready for your audience. Nobody explained that to me. So it’s just it’s like trial and error, baptism by fire, those types of things, and trying to figure out the process. It’s like, why? Why do we have to continue to do it this way, and just have people fumble around in figuring this stuff out, when we already know some of the challenges that they’re going to face.
When I transition into public health, and started working with communities, I can kind of get like you, like, “Oh, I don’t have to worry about publishing necessarily anymore.” And I learned in my research courses, in my master of public health degree like, oh, yeah, you still got to publish. [Inaudible 0:23:36] Like, really? I came here for a health education degree, so that I could educate my people, and go back to my community. I’m not worried about research, and publishing, and doing all that.
We actually had to publish a manuscript – not publish, but submit a manuscript for publishing as part of a course in master of public health degree. That was my first time doing qualitative research. I had to go through the process of doing the interviews, and doing all the things, and the IRB, and all that stuff. I was familiar with the IRB, but I hadn’t done it for qualitative. And then, I think that was also –that was my first time leading – actually being first author of a manuscript writing process, and before anybody else, no, we did not get published, I got rejected. Okay.
[0:24:34] CN: That’s part of the process. It’s part of the process.
[0:24:35] JW: It’s part of the process.
[0:24:36] CN: It is. It really is.
[0:24:38] JW: But it was still a challenge. I was like, how do I even navigate, trying to go to the website, trying to find a journal, trying to figure out what article fit? My article or manuscript fits with what journal? Trying to decipher the author guidelines, trying to figure out deadlines, and what is my process? How do I get everything done? All the things. I didn’t really have – I mean, of course, my professor was great, but there’s only so much your professor can teach you in a semester about manuscript writing and publishing, when there’s not part of the course. This is your final exam, your final project. So many challenges that we run into, and I think your experiences, and my experience with manuscript writing has led us to join forces.
Chioma and I are joining forces to bring something special to you all, around manuscript writing, and publishing. But before we get into details about that, Chioma, I want you to share because you came to me, you came to me about this. I want you to share kind of what was your thought process, and your idea, and then we can share kind of the journey and where we are now?
[0:25:53] CN: Yes. I mean, it really came to me, because part of my work is working with community partners. I lead several research partnerships where we are – it’s community-led research partnerships. I’ve been doing a lot of capacity-building technical assistance, a lot of support training, with community partners around manuscript writing. It was really sort of the basics. Like you were saying, how do you know what journal? Where do you go look for information? How do you start even sort of setting up your manuscript, all those kinds of things. I was sitting back, just sort of reflecting, and thinking like, “This is actually something that I think community partners actually literally need, especially given sort of this big push for community-academic partnerships.” In my own experience, and being the community partner, and a community academic partnership, I’ve had good and bad experiences, right?
Sort of the not so good experiences, my academic partner didn’t get did not care if I knew how to write a manuscript. Another partnership I was in, the academic partner wrote the whole damn manuscript and emailed it to me, and said, “Let me know if you have any edits within the next two weeks.” And then I sent my edits, I didn’t hear anything else. I was like, “Oh, no. This got to change. This is not going to work. I need to start setting parameters around the work that we’re going to be doing and the manuscripts we’re going to be writing.”
So because of those experiences of being a community partner, the experience of supporting community partners, I was just like, “We need – I don’t see it anywhere. I don’t see it in the public health education space.” I was like, “This is something that needs to be created.” Not because I’m always someone that’s like, I don’t believe I need to do things by myself. [Inaudible 0:27:44] I believe that doing things in partnership really makes it stronger. I knew that you were in the public education space, public health education space. I knew some of your work, not only because the United We Rise, but because we’ve connected in other spaces. I was following you on LinkedIn, like I knew your work. I was like, “Oh, that’s a perfect partnership, in terms of how we can think to develop this, and make it into something that is supportive to others.”
Now, in my head, it was like [inaudible 0:28:21] girl. So resources girl train a little different, trainings for community partners, training for public health practitioners, trainings for early academics, early researchers. But the vision is bigger now, and so I’m excited that we’re able to go on this journey together.
[0:28:39] JW: Absolutely. When you came to me about the idea, I think I was on the same wavelength as you. I was kind of like, “Yeah, that sounds like [inaudible 0:28:47].”
[0:28:47] CN: [Inaudible 0:28:47], Joyee. Be true, tell the truth now. You were hesitant, and you were like, “Chioma, okay. I got a lot going on right now.” Be honest, Joyee.
[0:28:59] JW: I am honest. I mean, it was a great idea. I was also hesitant, but it’s also a great idea.
[0:29:06] CN: You are hesitant just because you had a lot of things on you plate.
[0:29:09] JW: Yes. But I mean, I’m always going to have a lot of things going on. But I mean, at the end of the day, it’s something that needs to be talked about, it’s something that we need, it’s something that our communities need, and deserve to have. Academia and faculty members, and people who are doing research in the ivory towers are not the only people who are capable writing manuscripts and hearing knowledge and sharing information.
What Chioma and I have created is what we like to call The Script Lab for Public Health. Script Lab for Public Health is a supportive and collaborative community to conquer writing and publishing challenges, and amplify the impact of your public health work. This isn’t just for – this is not about academic folks. We already know about manuscript writing and publishing, and got a bunch of papers out there already. It’s not for them. This is for us, the folks who are feeling lost, feeling lost with the manuscript writing and publishing process. Maybe you’re feeling confused, maybe you just don’t know how to navigate it, and you just don’t know where to start. This is a community for you.
Now, it doesn’t matter if you’re a researcher, a practitioner, or even a community member. If you want to learn about manuscript writing, and publishing, and the process, what goes into it, what does it take, what are the things that you need to consider. Having the resources available to you and having access to the people who have already been through this. And being in community with other people, other folks who have done this work, or who want to learn about this work is important as well. This has been a joint venture, and I think it’s a passion, it’s a passion thing. I think we’re very –
[0:31:06] CN: It is absolutely.
[0:31:08] JW: – very passionate about this work and trying to understand what is the impact of what we’re doing. Because like you said, this hasn’t been out here. We haven’t really seen anything that really just breaks it down. From beginning to end, what is the process? How do we navigate these challenges, so on? So one of the things that we can talk about is, one of the challenges is getting started with the writing process, and what does that really mean. So let’s talk a little bit about that.
[0:31:41] CN: Sure. When I sort of first started writing. Typically, when people talk about writing manuscripts, it’s within sort of academic institutions, and it’s about sort of disseminating information. That’s even sort of disseminating information, disseminating knowledge. One of the things that I realized in my own journey was like, “Yeah, I want to disseminate information. But like, I’m not just writing just to be writing. I’m not interested in you sort of saying, asking me how many articles I have published. That ain’t a thing for me. The number isn’t the thing for me.”
So really having to step back and say, “Why am I doing it? Why do I think it’s important?” So I told you about my hesitation to do it, and not even my hesitation, like, I want to try to hear it. Now, I’m at a point of, “Okay, I can see. I can see where it can land.” Then now, it’s like, “Okay. Chioma, what is your actual purpose for writing a manuscript? How does that purpose feed into your goals, in your career, feed into your personal life?” I mean, sometimes that’s a gray area, your career, your personal life. Knowing your purpose I think is the critical sort of piece, because that will define for you what you’re going to put in your manuscript. It’s going to define for you what kind of journals you want to publish in. It’s going to define for you how you want to present information even.
That’s a big thing when you’re dealing with social inequities, and you’re dealing with sort of ways in which people have been dehumanized historically. Now, you’re talking about their lived experience, and all the nuances, all the ugliness of their sort of lived experiences. How do you talk about it in a way that still shows humanity? How do you talk about in a way that says that, “No, there’s still strength there. There’s still strength there.” Even though people like to say – people are resilient. I have a sort of love hate relationship with the word resilient, but how do you still sort of show that in your writing, especially if you have certain values about manuscript writing. That’s where sort of it took me, and I think that’s what – I mean, it took us. It was interesting, because I think our first sort of write up of all this was like, yes, goal setting is important. Like that focus is important.
I think as we started talking to people, or hearing from people implementing our trainings, we’re like, “Oh, no, this is a whole thing.” We really need to spend time with people around defining the purpose. It can become very, I think, I don’t want to say challenging, but it can become very sort of multi-layered, when you’re someone who works in institution, an academic institution. Because your purpose might be dependent on somebody else’s expectations of you. How do you sort of mirror the two? It had been, I think, interesting conversations, because we’ve had early researchers in our trainings, who have talked about – even as early researcher, they don’t get these basics. They’re just like sent off to go buy the manuscript. Like, what? So really starting with sort of what is your purpose, I think is where we – I think where we’re really sort of seeing people connect to our work.
[0:35:08] JW: Yes. Understanding that purpose is really understanding who we are at our core. We are more than public health researchers, professionals, practitioners. We are more than that. But we also have to understand how all the other different areas of our lives, our personal experiences have impacted where we are in our journey. Then, how do we want that to come through our manuscript writing, and the things that we want to publish, and how do we want to, in essence, share our knowledge at that kitchen table, share the knowledge at the couch. Share the knowledge in these journals and manuscript writings, articles that we may want to publish.
So as we have developed The Script Lab, one of our primary offerings is around this idea of identifying what is your purpose, identifying what is your unique perspective that’s going to help you guide your manuscript journey. We like to call this your manuscript manifesto. Guess what, we actually offer this training for free. What we do in this session, in this free workshop is we share some of those practical tips, and insights to help create a clear, and concise statement that reflects your unique voice, your values, your perspective, based on who you are, based on your experiences. What happens is, you end up creating this powerful tool that serves as inspiration and guidance as you work on your manuscript, in order to — in effectively communicating the potential impact of your work. So understanding that purpose through your manuscript manifesto is one of the first steps. That’s something that we often skip over.
[0:37:01] CN: Yes. Yes. I mean, I think the reason why we were very clear about offering that for free is because how important it is. If you don’t want to know anything else, look, know your purpose. Know your purpose, because that’s what’s going to get you through the hard times. That’s what’s going to remind you of why you’re doing it. It’s also going to remind you of look, “You said that this is the value that you hold, how is that reflected in this manuscript that you just wrote?” Whether we’re talking about language content, where it’s published, like how is it going to – how are you making sure that those values are reflected? If you don’t get nothing else, I think that that is like the foundation of writing a manuscript.
I’m sure, I mean, and I think also, it allows you to reflect on some of those points of contention, some of those points of contention. Like, okay, I am an early researcher, or I am a junior researcher on this team. I know that a primary goal is, I need to be producing a manuscript. How am I going to sort of balance that out with the values I hold around me. I mean, in academic institution, they expect me to pump out X number of manuscripts every year. How am I going to hold true to who I am and what I do in this work? It doesn’t mean – it’s not an either or conversation. It allows you to reflect on how can those two things live together in harmony, in a way that you feel like you are living out your purpose, and your passion, and doing the work that you get up and want to do every morning.
[0:38:41] JW: Right. For those who are interested in trying to define your purpose, if you want some guidance on how to go about doing it, and kind of overcome that challenge of how do I even start the writing process, identifying your purpose is that first step. So we’re going to show you how to do that in our free manuscript manifesto workshop. And we’re going to be sharing more details soon about that. So if you want to get more information about it, you can go to bit.ly/thescriptlab. Join our email list, you can become a member of what we’d like to call The Script Squad. So you can join the squad, join the community, and you can get more information about our upcoming manuscript manifesto workshop and how to get registered, how to join, all of it.
[0:39:32] CN: It’s a good moment, it’s a good time, it’s the beginning of a semester. You can start sort of planning out sort of how you’re going to get to a point of completing a manuscript, and this is the first step. So sign up, sign up.
[0:39:47] JW: Wait. Wait a minute. Hold up, y’all. This conversation ain’t over. You didn’t think that was the end, did you? You got to join us for part two of this amazing conversation and a bonus episode being released on Friday, September 29th. So mark your calendars to hear how Chioma and I are joining forces to demystify the manuscript writing and submission process, and what brings Chioma joy in her work. You do not want to miss this joy ride. Cue the music.
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