Living a Story


I recently finished Donald Miller’s new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life.

I have what some have called a “crush” on Donald Miller…his writing, that is. I find his writing incredibly thought-provoking and easy to read.  A Million Miles is no exception. This is a story about living a story. The thread that is woven through the book is the story of two film directors who work with Miller to write a screenplay based on Miller’s memoir. Like his other books, there are great stories of road trips that sweep you away into the adventure until you’re ready to call up your buddies and hit the road or head off into the woods! And there are characters you wish you could have as friends. And all along the way you pick up little nuggets about life.

So here are a few things that struck me along A Million Miles…

“Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo and worked for years to get it. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. 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. (from the Author’s Notes)

Miller goes to a 36hr lecture by Robert McKee to learn the elements of story. This was the big take-away:

A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. (p48)

“I wonder if…we were designed to live through something, rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change.” (p70)

“[watching Star Wars] made me wonder if the reasons 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.” (p113)

Take any good movie and you have a character who is after something – whether that’s a person, relationship, goal…the character is after something. But it’s not enough for that character to get it. There must be pain. There must be sacrificial commitment to the pursuit. It’s about what happens to the character along the way. That’s the character arc Miller writes about.

Miller writes about his trip on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: “Why would the Incas make people take the long route? Because the emperor knew, Carlos said, the more painful the journey to Machu Picchu, the more the traveler would appreciate the city once he got there.” (p140)

So…you and I are living a story. I’m asking myself if my story is very interesting. Don’t get me wrong! I have an incredible life! But I want to clarify what it is that I want. And one of things that I want is to live an adventure; to see every day as an opportunity and to never back down from a potential challenge because it is the challenges that shape my character and therefore my story.


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