About a decade ago, I read books by Christian authors with Christian themes. Especially the popular ones, like In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado and I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. The former was a cut and paste of legitimate authors like C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine and the later ruined my life. (Okay, maybe I’m still thinking from the perspective of a teenager prone to dramatic statement like that, but I would not recommend it.) After bad experiences like these, I gave up and basically swore never to read another so-called Christian book ever again.
However, my friend Becky is able to get me to try things I had closed my mind to, such as reading the Twilight series. Or even dressing up as a Twilight character. She recommended A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, which I never would have even picked up to look at in the book store. Not that it is a Christian book per se, but his previous works were. What drew me to Miller’s most recent book, though, is the theme.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is about editing your life. And as you know, if you’ve looked around my blog, I love me some editing. “Can you even do that – edit your life?” I expectantly wondered, when I saw the subtitle, “What I Learned While Editing My Life.” Well, yes and no.
Miller finds himself in a unique position of being able to edit his life story for a film memoir and writes about the process and his discoveries. The author is not some sci-fi geek who believes one can actually go back in time to change one’s decisions. (Believe me, I was severely disappointed he had not indeed made the discovery of time travel and was going to share the secret of how to truly edit one’s life.) But as Miller learns about what makes a good story, he realizes his current life is lame and needs a makeover.
What Miller essentially asks is, “If one can edit the story of his life for story-telling purposes, why can’t he apply those same principles to day-to-day living?” He tests his hypothesis and the results are very satisfactory: he pursues a girl he’s interested at the risk of a broken heart, goes hiking in South America, bikes across America, founds a charitable organization and meets amazing characters.
Not that I think everyone’s story will look similar, but let’s face it, if you are a single man in his mid-thirties or whatever and a flexible work schedule, shouldn’t you be doing stuff like this? Either Miller is totally honest and even as an already successful writer he really is a lame duck at the beginning of this book or he is self-depreciating. Either way, he is a fantastic writer because I began the reading of this book basically loathing his character. I’m surprised I even kept reading, that’s how much of a jerk he makes himself out to be. Don might as well be in his underwear eating Cheetos and watching a football game, that’s how much of a loser he seems. (Disclaimer: I do not condemn watching football. Or being in your underwear, as long as you also wear clothing. In fact, you should wear underwear. As to Cheetos, may I point you to the back of the bag? Or the orange fingers?)
But by the end of the book, I was thinking this guy is brilliant and has valuable pointers for my own life. Brilliant except for one thing – he seems to know absolutely nothing about story until he talks to the producers of the film about his life and goes to a writing conference. Is this another gimmick like the subtitle or self-depreciating descriptions? Or did he truly manage to skip all this English classes and know enough to publish in another genre? However and whenever he learns about it, Miller highlights the elements of story that can make one’s own life an exciting one to tell.
Again, your life might not look like the adventurist/charity founder’s when you’ve begun to write your story, but I highly recommend reading A Million Miles… even if you already think you are living up to your potential – you might be surprised at some of his conclusions – and taking charge of your own story, that is, taking charge of your own life. Although writing such an epic can be daunting, I’m excited about writing mine. I’m still at the part where you figure out what makes your character tick, but that’s okay. Some great stories take decades to write. Maybe I can start a writer’s circle/support group. Or something.