Don Miller is a gifted man. These days in spare moments I’m working through his 4+ hour workshop on The Elements of Story. He has a lot of good things to say, and I think Christians should join him in learning about the power of story, and how to harness it for God’s purposes. But that’s for another soapbox another day.
I recently finished A Million Miles in a Thousand Years after having waited on it for a year or so. Having read all his previous books, and with my limited knowledge of editing, publishing, and writing, combined with a lot of respect for Don, I was most anxious to read this book. Finally. Of course I can’t help but wonder what the scoop is with having it hit the shelves nearly a year later than was planned. The world of publishing has its own secrets, well protected from us mortals.
My sense of the book is that it is highly edited, tightly scripted, and of course has a smashing PR package. I mean, have you ever heard of a writer hiding copies of his book in various cities, giving directions to them via Twitter, I think it was, before the book came out? And this current 65-city tour–it’s a huge marketing scheme, and it makes me sad in a way because I feel that God’s people should support God’s artists and writers, and is this the best way it’s done? I guess it’s the modern way it’s done.
But I digress.
I think what happened to Don while writing this book is the same thing that happened to me when writing my book: it wasn’t til I was two-thirds into it that I hit my stride. And even careful editing doesn’t hide it or cure it. The first part of A Million Miles was fairly boring. I’d heard alot of it before in his various talks, plus it seemed he was trying to draw in the reader with sensational or arty ideas. Not that I did that with my book, no, never!!! Don can get away with the kind of airy-fairy writing that most of us mortals can’t.
I didn’t connect with this book until he wrote about his ‘melt down’ alone in his hotel room in LA when he thought to himself They don’t have an emergency room for the kind of pain that is about to happen to me. After that, the book isn’t arty anymore. It’s truthful and real and hits hard–and is still beautiful. Not that I took pleasure in hearing about his pain. But it was then that I knew we lived in the same world and speak the same language, and I could take on board what he was saying.
My favourite chapter is “The Reason God Hasn’t Fixed You Yet.” In it, he verbalizes the truth that things are never going to be perfect here. Utopia doesn’t come even if we do desperate things to get it. However, there WILL be a time when wrongs will be made right. Jesus will do it, not us, and it will be at a wedding, and there will be a feast.
The last chapter is edited within an inch of its life. Actually, if I ever get a chance to meet Don, I’ll ask him about it because I’m 100% sure that he didn’t write the last paragraph of the last chapter. It is so sculpted, it’s clunky and awkward. But the afterward is wonderful. It’s so beautiful and true it makes me wish I’d have written it.
Is Don one of those writers who will keep churning out books because publishers see big money coming from it? I hope not. I like to think that he’s a gifted writer, and that his message and his skill will not become diluted with more books and speeches. I hope that he is one of a new generation of writers and speakers who fan into flame the gift God gives them, knowing that they are trees in a story about a forest. I don’t know what all that means, but I do know that it means doing more than sitting on a couch waiting for inspiration to strike or for things to happen. I’m glad Don is living a good story. It inspires me. Which, among other things, is what good stories should do.