“As I worked on my novel, my character did what he wanted and ruined my story,” says Donald Miller in A Million Miles In A Thousand Years.
He goes on to draw parallels between himself as the writer and God as the Writer. With God as the Writer, each of us as a character has a story to live out. Problem is we fight against the story that the Writer wants to tell through us.
“Why didn’t I trust God?” Miller says. “I believed He was the Writer who was not me and he could write a better story than I could, but I did not trust him.”
I so relate to what Miller is saying, both as a writer and as a person in this great story called life. It is no secret to most anyone who knows me that I would like to write a book, but not just any book, a novel-length fiction story that has something meaningful to say that will change someone, if even in some small way, for the better.
I say I don’t have an idea for a story, but the truth is I have lots of ideas. I just don’t know if they are earth-shatteringly great ideas. When I think of a story, I start adding characters. Then they do very ordinary things and the story sort of never goes anywhere.
The story is not intriguing because the character wants to stay in her comfort zone. She never wants to parachute out of the airplane or run a marathon or bunji jump off the cliff because it might hurt and she might… die.
Trouble is, if the character never parachutes, runs or jumps, or does the thing that scares her, she never will learn if she can survive, overcome, grow. Stories about people who sit in front of the television set, mow the lawn and do the laundry are not interesting. They are safe. They are static. They are boring.
Boring books I know a lot about. I don’t just read books, I devour them. But there are only a few books I can tell you the story line of. Surprisingly some of the ones I remember most are true stories about ordinary people who found themselves in the middle of extraordinary events because they trusted the Writer and obeyed his direction.
One of my favorite books is the Heavenly Man, a story about Brother Yun, a dedicated Chinese house church leader who was persecuted for his faith. His courage and faith are extreme. Yet he was just an ordinary man living life in the village where he was placed by the Writer.
He didn’t run to a more comfortable place or hide his faith. He stood boldly in the face of what looked like certain death. He willingly stayed in the story and allowed the Writer to tell the story through him. He has led many to Christ and his story has inspired thousands maybe millions more.
Remember the movie about the mother and wife who is a CIA agent but no one in her family knows? Interesting stuff because every wife and mother can identify with wanting to do more, be more than just an ordinary person muddling through life. We want to know that what we are doing matters.
We don’t have to work as a government agent or live a persecuted life in China to make a difference. But we do have to listen to the Writer and agree to go a little bit out of our comfort zone. It might be as simple as going to a different grocery store that the Writer is wanting to write into our script.
When we agree with the Writer, we may find someone in need at that store or an old friend with whom we need to reconnect. If we say no to the Writer and make a conscious decision to stay in our old routines, probably nothing bad will happen. Probably nothing will happen at all.
That’s why I’ve decided I will write something each week. Not a best seller, maybe not even a fictional story, but something.
This is my inciting incident. I’m announcing to anyone who cares to muddle through and read this in its entirety that I will write something at least each week and I’ll post it here.
In processing through why I am not writing anything much, my daughter helped me see that it’s because I don’t have an audience. So perhaps you are my audience of one. But if you are, you are an audience.
I am determined to become a character in my life story. I am a writer. I will write.