I mentioned a book the other day, Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life.
What a breath of fresh air!
Partly because I read it in between two dark Gillian Flynn novels, and what a day and night contrast that was, as much as I loved her nefariousness.
Also because Miller didn’t make me wade through an ocean of inspirational cheese like so many other Christian authors.
Seriously, guys, I love God but I avoid the Christian bookstore like the plague. And I think he’d be okay with me saying that.
Don Miller is a writer, so he imagines himself as a character in a story God is writing.
I feel written. My skin feels written, and my desires feel written… It feels literary, doesn’t it, as if we are characters in books.
… there is a knowing I feel that guides me toward better stories, toward being a better character. I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness.
So as I was writing my novel… I became more and more aware that somebody was writing me. So I started listening to the Voice, or rather, I started calling it the Voice and admitting there was a writer. I admitted something other than me was showing a better way. And when I did this, I realized the Voice, the Writer who was not me, was trying to make a better story, a more meaningful series of experiences I could live through.
Miller calls himself “a tree in a story about a forest.” He recognizes the arrogance of living as though you’re the main character of the greatest story every told. But he also appreciates the value he does have in the narrative, and takes joy in his supporting role. “The story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.”
The chapters have fun names like “My Real Life Was Boring” and “Squeezing the Cat.” Each chapter weaves together humor with inspiration; anecdotes of real-life friends who are intentionally living great stories with the lessons learned while turning his best-seller Blue Like Jazz into a movie.
The message is simple: live a better story. “Things get better when you’re living a better story.” And it inspired me to want to do it. But how? The execution isn’t always so easy.
Thankfully, Miller has a few tips:
1. Face your fear.
…the great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear.
The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is “Do not fear.” It’s in there over two hundred times. That means a couple of things, if you think about it. It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn’t let fear boss us around. Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.
2. Know what you want.
The reason our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.
3. Own your own happiness. Let everyone else off the hook.
When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God.
4. Don’t give up.
…we had to paddle for hours through the pitch black, and in the middle the inlet was so large and the dark was so dark we couldn’t make out either shore…
I think this is when most people give up on their stories.
[Robert McKee] said, “Writing a story isn’t about making your peaceful fantasies come true. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person.
“You put your characters through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way we change.”