Someone with a fair amount of experience on the topic once told me that you can’t call yourself a writer if you aren’t putting 1,000 words to paper each day. That statement, if true, made my Twitter page (at that time) a lie. At some point after leaving college, I had filled out the profile options and included the descriptor “unemployed writer” to bolster the definition of myself that I had concluded was accurate. Nowadays, that same Twitter profile includes a quote from a hip-hop song in the “bio” section, a transformation that could be considered a microcosm of the last five years of my life.
When Geneva College released me into the wild in 2011, I was under the assumption that I had achieved something by surviving four years of higher education. This achievement would be my personal magic carpet or golden ticket to adulthood. That could have been further from the truth, I suppose, but it’s not terribly likely.
Within three months of my walk across the graduation stage, I was married and jobless – practically the poster child for recent graduates of small, Christian, liberal arts colleges. It took significantly more time than I would like to admit, but I eventually caved and admitted defeat: I wasn’t going to be using my college education in any traditional sense.
That was largely my own fault. I committed a cardinal sin during my collegiate years: I didn’t get a single internship. I had so little to show for myself by way of experience in the communication field that I’m sure there were a few chuckles had by the folks in HR departments across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In fact, the only ones I’m nearly certain didn’t laugh at my shortcomings were the few who were kind enough to at least send a “we’re looking at candidates that better fit our needs” type of email.
Even beyond my time on College Hill I managed to shoot my career hopes in the foot. I avoided one sportswriting job merely because it wasn’t where I wanted to be at that time. I had hopes of building my own life somewhere. I didn’t want to be back in my hometown covering the high school teams I could have been writing about before I spent four years playing video games and drinking copious amounts of Mountain Dew.
It’s not that I made zero effort to really become a writer. I joined a couple of different projects, and I put together a few pieces that I still take pride in today. But every time I had an opportunity to truly buckle down and become the writer others expected me to be, I found a way to put it in the rearview and focus on something else.
My most noteworthy failure came at the end of 2014. I had been working at the local Panera Bread for over a year, and my patience with the job was dwindling. I had worked through some of the most difficult scenarios that restaurant could throw at me and I had little to show for it. What I did have was the idea in my mind to finally cave to God’s demands and start my own website.
I’m playing fast and loose with the word “start” there. The site had been registered for a year and a half, but I seldom managed to update it. I realized, though, that there was an abundance of free time in my schedule that could be better used (see aforementioned video game/Mountain Dew habits). I had tried so many times and failed to get SethKuhns.com off and running. This time would be different.
If I have discovered anything about myself in nearly 27 years, it’s that I need accountability to remain productive. My ideas are grandiose at times but my execution pales in comparison. When I have others directly involved in the projects I work on, they tend to keep me in check and my work tends to flourish, or at the very least, exist. So I turned to Facebook.
Let’s get something straight: Facebook is stupid. We all know that. Even though it’s fascinating from top to bottom and completely transcends everything we once thought we knew about communication, Facebook is, at its core, stupid. We take in tons of information from dozens, hundreds, even thousands of friends. Some of it sticks to us, and it gives us an artificial sense of belonging in groups that may not even recognize us outside of our profile photos. It’s stupid.
To prove it, my plea to the individuals I am connected to on Facebook fell silent. I had urged anyone who noticed that SethKuhns.com was not up and running by February 1 to harass me until the site was live and brimming with content. Visit the URL now, and you’ll notice that SethKuhns.com essentially doesn’t exist. That’s the exact state it has been in for 12 months. I am not proud of that, but in a convoluted way, it has helped me get to this point.
Without an outlet for my writing, I feel like a pretty worthless human being. I know wholeheartedly that God chose to bless me with the ability and talent to craft essays and op-eds and sports journalism and who knows what else. It’s been too long since I’ve put 1,000 words to paper on a daily basis. There’s a reason why my Twitter bio no longer refers to me as a writer. But that same Twitter bio also doesn’t refer to me as unemployed, and that is a blessing.
I no longer work at Panera. That only occurred in the last few months, but it’s been a freeing experience. I now work somewhere only slightly more prestigious, but for the first time in five years, I’m happy with where I’m at career-wise. It doesn’t even have that much to do with the career I’m in, either. What I attribute my happiness to these days is the page your eyes are viewing at this moment.
When God started being pushier about my tendency to squander my gifts and talents, I had my typical reaction and ignored what He had to say. It’s stupid, and I know it’s wrong, but I do it every single time. Eventually, He used means that I had no choice but to address, including my health. That was the end of my refusal, and the inception of this project.
This time, though, I didn’t consult Facebook for help. I turned to my sister, some of my best friends, and my wife for assistance in making the King’s dream for me a reality. I knew that if this was going to happen, it wouldn’t happen by my own effort. I was uncertain about what kind of response I would get from the people I was asking to help, but surprisingly, they were all as interested as I was in what we might be able to accomplish.
I wrote in the site’s introductory post that things have gotten hairy in the final week before launching this page. My procrastination nearly ruined the plans I had believed were firmly in place. I made a last-second decision to host the website independently after leading everyone to believe we would be running through Google’s Blogger service, and that nearly crippled the whole project just days before launch. My desktop stopped booting properly the day after I finally got WordPress to work nicely with the host server. And those were just the problems the website itself faced in that week. If I were to go into detail about what issues our contributors were facing individually in those few days, you would realize the technological problems I dealt with were infinitesimal in comparison.
During our Skype meeting last Sunday, a few other members of the team told me that Imperfect Collective was going to be a bigger deal than we realized at that moment, and in full transparency, I have to say that I didn’t believe that. Part of me still doesn’t believe that. I have no plan of what this site will become. I don’t even know what content we will be able to publish in a week. But as I sat there on Wednesday night, confronted with prayer requests from two different members of the group about things that could easily hamper the site’s launch, along with my own issues I was running into on the technical side, I realized that something was going on that was way larger than I could get my head around: Satan didn’t want this thing to happen at all. He was throwing things at each of us left and right, trying to throw us off and keep our spirits down. It was a last-ditch effort to end this before it started.
I went to the whole group on our Slack page and told everyone to be praying, and that we needed to consider each other as a network of believers, that we were all there for each other in times of prayer and need. I realized then that “bigger than we think” doesn’t necessarily mean better SEO numbers or social media reach. This thing is bigger than we think because God is using it for something more. Even if this winds up just being five to ten of us sharing our writing with each other and praying for each other’s needs, that’s bigger than we think. The accountability needed to keep a project like this going comes from more than just posting to Facebook.
While I still feel underemployed, and I still have days where I just want to quit to pursue writing full-time, I know that there’s an alternative, and I am living that alternative. I have a steady, good job with excellent benefits, and I get to pursue my passion on the side. This site is finally my outlet, and I get to share it with some of the best people I know.
I have not been this excited about anything in a few years. I sent Brandon a message earlier tonight about how much I missed editing. He and I worked together on the student newspaper at Geneva, and I remember some stressfully fun nights together in the office laying waste to the subpar writing efforts of college freshmen. We are blessed to be working with significantly more talented writers here (I don’t have to pull my hair out over people using Wikipedia as a source) but I have a feeling this is going to be just as fun.
Part of that fun is the unpredictability of this site and its content. At the top of each page, it notes the site as a “constant work in progress,” and while that can easily be construed as a joke about how long this site has taken to get going, its primary meaning is in the varied content and broad focus we are going to offer. You will find many different types of writing and viewpoints that I hope will challenge and fulfill you on a daily basis. I encourage you to take advantage of the comments sections – they don’t have to be a four-letter word like they are treated by much of the rest of the online community. We want to engage you and talk about culture and God and anything else that comes to mind. Your worldview should be in a constantly shifting state, and ours will be the same. Help us learn and grow, and we hope to do the same for you.
In the coming weeks, I will be writing about some different, hopefully thought-provoking stuff; from Christian hip-hop to the National Football League to pornography, I will be laying my thoughts out for your perusal and critique. Eventually, in line with the work-in-progress nature of IC, I’ll be doing a little audio and video work to throw into the mix. Perhaps Kyle will push me to venture down the poetry trail, and I have a feeling Brandon will inspire me to try my hand at a short story.
I don’t know what this site will become, but that’s part of what excites me about it. It’s going to be a growth opportunity for everyone involved, including its readers. That may sound conceited or arrogant, but like I said, I already know it’s bigger than I first thought it would be.