Monday, December 10, 2012

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Your Life

We were recently invited to join a book club by our chic friend Cambri Christensen Visser. I was completely and totally psyched. I love to read and I never know WHAT to read. Goodreads is great and I like to use it for inspiration. But almost more than reading the books, I love TALKING about books. When I read Gone Girl over fall break I was dying to talk to someone, anyone about it and none of my friends had read it. Pure hell.

So a book club is the best scenario of all time. Books. Friends. Discussion. Food. Yahtzee. I'm looking to get involved in a few more. Message me if you're interested. Srsly.

The book we chose for our first round was "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller. He is a memoir-humor-lifestyle-self help-religion-grab bag writer. I have his signature name-making book "Blue Like Jazz" on hold for pickup at the library and I can't wait to grab it tomorrow and begin devouring it like this one.

It is, in a word, inspirhilariawesome. Because I couldn't use just one word to describe it. Especially for a somewhat rootless, disillusioned, bored 20-something, it just hit me right in the heart. Not with fear, shock or even poignancy, but with simple truth.

The premise of the book is that Donald Miller is spinning his wheels, bored in the lull after the success of "Blue Like Jazz." Some filmmakers approach him out of the blue and want to make a movie about his life/memoir. Suddenly, Miller is faced with the amazing opportunity to deeply examine and even rewrite his own life. The lessons he learns along the way are amazing and so completely applicable to our lives.

The main theme is that we are all living "stories." He begins seeing himself as a character while trying to write his life script, and sees that its probably the way God sees us in the stories where He places us. We have a lot of control in our stories, but He is there, whispering in our ears the elements to make our story better if we will just listen to him.

Story elements apply to our lives. Quotable bits like "When we live a story we are telling the people around us what we think is important" and "if the character hasn't changed, the story isn't over yet" really made me think about my life as a story that I want to spice up. Good characters face trials and challenges, have to do some good to be likable, and always come out on top in the end. Eventually.

Another big theme was the idea that WE have to make our story readable. Tellable. Interesting. Miller realizes when the filmmakers try to make up parts of his story that his true story isn't interesting enough for the screen.

Is mine? Is yours? If a filmmaker sat down with you to make a movie of your life, would it make a good movie? Probably not. Sorry. No offense. Mine would be super boring too. I spend far too much time on the couch watching The Office and reading fashion blog/magazines to make my life interesting.

At that point, Miller does a number of things to make his life a good "story." He tries to find his estranged father. He hikes to Macchu Picchu in Peru. He bikes across the United States. It's not easy. He has an incredibly difficult, even painful time. But he knows that it's the right thing to do and he learns that pain wins you things. Like experience. Knowledge. And scenes.

The most visual, personally applicable part was his description of scenes. Great movies, great stories, have great scenes. Think of an action hero walking calmly away from an expanding explosion. A romantic kiss in the rain. A meditating character at sunset. Think of your favorite movie and you're sure to recall a "scene."

Now think of your favorite memories in life. Likely they are "scenes" as well. They don't often come reading on the couch, Danica. Miller notes that many of his favorite scenes happen in the outdoors while DOING things. Point taken. I'll get out and DO more. But maybe not till this snow melts in the spring...

What I walked away with, was that my life can be an incredible story. You just need to be willing to accept an "inciting incident." Accept pain. Accept challenge. Get out of your box, so to speak. Do good things that will make you the type of character viewer/readers want to root for. Make memorable scenes. Listen to your screenwriter, God, whispering your cue in the corner of your ear. Live like a documentary crew is following you around, day in and day out.

Live your life like it's a story that you'd want to pay $8.50 and a bucket of popcorn for.

Start by reading this book.

Then email me so we can talk more about it.


  1. This is definitely how I view my life. I mean, my Title of my Blog...and the "description" after it certainly applies. A lot of my posts are also on different "chapters" of my life. I love reading and I love writing, so I like to view my life as a Fairy Tale.

  2. This is so great, thanks for posting this! I really need to read this book now. I'm sure I will be thinking about this post for a very long time and make an effort to live differently because of it. Love it!