Sunday, October 11, 2009

Good Writing: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Wow. Oh, wow! Thursday night, I finished a book that I love love LOVE. And then? On Friday night I got to hear the author speak at Windsor Crossing and then we met him! ! ! ! (I want to add about 20 exclamation points there.)

You have to understand that for me (an aspiring writer), that was pretty awesome. I was totally geeking out. He even autographed my book. (I wish you could see my geeky face as I type that.)

So, let me back up. The book is called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It was written by Donald Miller, who also wrote Blue Like Jazz. (I read Jazz first, back in September. There will be a movie about it too.) I liked Jazz a lot, but Million Miles completely blew me away. Maybe for the sole reason that I am an aspiring writer and Miller talks a lot about the elements of story and how to write a better story.

But, honestly, I would love this book even if I hated writing. Because Miller calls us all into the bigger picture, and compels each of us to write a better story for our lives. In the Author's Note section before the book even starts, he writes, "The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make a life meaningful either." The rest of the book spells out that premise with inspiring stories, tasks that he takes on himself (a hike on the Inca trail, a cross-country bike ride), and amazingly ALIVE people that Miller meets.

In the book and in his lecture on Friday night, Miller says that you can't have a meaningful story without conflict. He said, "If you see conflict, dive into it. It might create tragedy and it might create beauty, but it always ends in meaning."

Through his idea that you can write a better story for your life, Miller also touches on topics that I am so hungry for: consumerism, parenting, and even a bit about obeying God and letting Him be the writer of your life. "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."

I love this part too, on page 58:
"...the realization that I was alive would startle me, as though it had come up from behind and slammed two books together. We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren't capable of remembering how we got here. When you are born, you wake slowly to everything. Your brain doesn't stop growing until you turn twenty-six, so from birth to twenty-six, God is slowly turning the lights on, and you're groggy and pointing at things saying circle and blue and car and then sex and job and health care. The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn't that big of a deal, that life isn't staggering. What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given - it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral."

Does that resonate with anyone else out there? How can you not feel compelled to get off your tookus and START LIVING after reading that? Life IS a big deal. And sometimes it hurts and has conflict and "might create tragedy but it always ends in meaning."

Miller also writes about a man he met by chance named Bob Goff. Bob's family starts a tradition in their neighborhood with a New Year's Day parade. The catch is that no one is allowed to sit and watch the parade. You have to jump in and participate. (This Bob Goff guy totally inspires me too.) I love that analogy for our lives: stop sitting and watching and jump in and LIVE.

I can't say enough great things about this book. Please PLEASE go buy a copy and read it for yourself. It is inspiring, uplifting, and some truly good writing. Trust me, y'all!

P.S. Wanna read another take on the book? Go here to see what Anne Jackson has to say. Now you have two good opinions telling you to go read it. So GO!!!

Book photo found here.


Gina said...

Sounds great! I'll check it out!

Chris Tea said...

I love this.

Robin said...

I love this view of the world.

The song going through my head this week and last was "Dive".

Everyone sing -- "So sink or swim, I'm diving in!"

Gretchen said...

That's great you got to meet him! What's with the geeky face for getting autographs though??? HMMM, I believe I talk about my chasing stars often. SIGH!


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