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A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story Paperback – March 7, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Miller, the accidental memoirist who struck gold with the likable ramble Blue Like Jazz, writes about the challenges inherent in getting unstuck creatively and spiritually. After Jazz sold more than a million copies but his other books didn't follow suit, he had a classic case of writer's block. Two movie producers contacted him about creating a film out of his life, but Miller's initial enthusiasm was dampened when they concluded that his real life needed doctoring lest it be too directionless for the screen. Real stories, he learned, require characters who suffer and overcome. In desultory fashion, Miller sets out to change his own life—to be the kind of guy who seeks out his father, chases the girl and undertakes a quest. Along the way, he comes to understand God as a master storyteller who doesn't quite control where his characters are going. An unexpected bonus of this book is Miller's insights into the writing process. Readers who loved Blue Like Jazz will find here a somewhat more mature Miller, still funny as hell but more concerned about making a difference in the world than in merely commenting on it. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Donald Miller has helped more than 3,000 businesses clarify their marketing messages so their companies grow. He's the CEO of StoryBrand and the author of several books, including the bestsellers Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Betsy, and their chocolate lab, Lucy.
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Top Customer Reviews
"No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her."
"But the want wasn't enough. The desire to live a better story didn't motivate me to do anything."
"People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen."
"A general rule in creating stories is that characters don't want to change. They must be forced to change. Nobody wakes up and starts chasing a bad guy or dismantling a bomb unless something forces them to do so."
"Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn't all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."
"They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen."
"James Scott Bell says an inciting incident is a doorway through which the protagonist cannot return."
"...progress, no matter how slow, is all that matters."
"It's true that while ambition creates fear, it also creates the story. But it's a good trade, because as soon as you point toward a horizon, life no longer feels meaningless. And suddenly there is risk in your story and a question about whether you'll make it."
Regarding Star Wars: "...if I paused the DVD on any frame, I could point toward any major character and say exactly what that person wanted. No character had a vague ambition. It 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."
"Once an ambition has been decided, a positive turn is an event that moves the protagonist closer to the ambition, and a negative turn moves the protagonist away from his ambition. All stories have both. If a story doesn't have negative turns, it's not an interesting story. A protagonist who understands this idea lives a better story. He doesn't give up when he encounters a setback, because he knows that every story has both positive and negative turns."
"Neither (a husband and wife) needed the other to make everything okay. They were simply content to have good company through life's conflicts."
"...when I began thinking about story as a guide for life, I took a lot of comfort in that principle. It wasn't necessary to win for the story to be great, it was only necessary to sacrifice everything."
"A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life."
A good story has a character who is pushed to overcome obstacles in order to achieve something and in the process is transformed into a better character.
As the fictional Donald is given a better story to live, the real Donald begins comparing his own life to the story he is working on- Life begins and ends, just like a story. Can the elements that make a story good, make a life good too?- he ponders.
In his quest to make his life a better story, he literally gets off his couch and goes after goals like hiking the Inca trail and biking across America, learning important life lessons along the way.
I found hope in the idea that I am permitted to write my own story, fill my life with passionate people and help them write better stories themselves. I've mostly been someone who has just made the best of whatever I'm dealt, instead of taking risks, chasing my dreams. This book is all about living a life of intention, actively seeking a better story for ourselves and leaving the end, the climax to God, Destiny, whatever you choose to call the higher authority. Even though I'm not a christian, I enjoyed the references made to bible in the book. Most religions preach similar lessons, don't they?
At times, it feels like it should be titled Blue Like Jazz II. Like Miller's other books, AMMIATY is a memoir laced with great thoughts about spirituality, Jesus, and life in general. Miller is honest and open about his struggles, which is why I believe so many people like his writing. Reading AMMIATY made me feel like I was watching the sequel to a movie I really enjoyed years ago and was getting to find out what happened to the main character in the years since we last saw him.
The theme that ties this book's chapters together is the idea that every life is a story, and the same elements that make a good story on screen are the ones that make good lives. As Miller worked with Steve Taylor on developing Blue Like Jazz into a screenplay, he learned a bit of what goes into making a story relatable, memorable, and generally good all around.
Early in the book Miller writes, "Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who got a Volvo. But we spend years living those kinds of stories and expect life to feel meaningful. Maybe that's why we go to so many movies, because our real lives don't feel meaningful anymore" (xiii). If you think about it, I think that's the way a lot of our lives play out. We don't plan on it, but somewhere along the way, we decide to settle for comfortable lives, instead of lives of significance. That point and the insights that Miller draws from it are what make the book worth reading.
At times, however, Miller does come off a little self-indulgent. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is essentially a collection of Donald Miller's thoughts. There were some sections where I wanted to hit the fast-forward button, as if Miller were rambling on to hear himself think. This wasn't often, but there were a few times I felt this way. [Again, this is just my feeling on it, so please forgive me if you read the book and didn't feel the same way.]
In one chapter, Miller writes that our lives are not like movies, because there will never be resolution. "I don't believe an act of man will make things on earth perfect, and I don't believe God will intervene before I die, or for that matter before you die. I believe, instead, we will go on longing for a resolution that will not come, not within life as we know it, anyway" (201). I understand what he's getting at, and there is a sense in which this eternal longing for resolution in our lives will always remain. There's always strife, death, unfulfilled desires, and needs surrounding us. The hope of the Christian life is that a resolution is coming, but it's more than that - that the resolution to the struggles and strife of this life can be found here and now in Jesus. Yes, there will still be disappointment for the Christian and there will still be difficulty and persecution... BUT the Christian life is about living in the hope of God's kingdom coming into this world.