Tuesday, May 01, 2012

How's Your Story?

You may have noticed I use lines about "living a better story" and "telling a good story" a lot in my writing. Well, admittedly, I stole the concept from one of my favorite authors and biggest influences, Donald Miller. If you aren't familiar with Miller, I suggest you check out Blue Like Jazz which was recently made into a movie (how this little book became the little movie that could is a pretty amazing story in itself). Miller is also the topic of Relevant's feature article for their just released May/June issue.

I first got hold of the story concept in Miller's latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I actually had two different friends send me a copy while I was living in Mmametlhake, and as I did with most books during the village season, I devoured it immediately, highlighting and underlining and making notes. When I finished, I turned the book over and started reading again. This time a little slower, trying to ingest and internalize as much as I could. I knew this was good stuff, and I knew I too wanted to "live a better story" right along with Miller.

The basic concept is pretty simple: take the elements of story--plot, conflict, etc.--and apply them to your own life. Is the protagonist engaging in his setting? Is she interacting with the plot? Is she engaging with the story as the principal character, or is she sitting back and letting it prattle on without her?

As Miller shares the story of how Blue Like Jazz went from book to screenplay, Miller realizes his own story wasn't a very interesting one. As the protagonist, he was allowing life to happen around him without truly engaging it and choosing to live a better story. From observation, Miller also came to the conclusion most of us could use a little encouragement to engage in our stories better.

I agree.

When conflict arises in my story, I tend to shirk back rather than engage in the conflict outright and move through it. To be sure, it is typically easier to move away from conflict than to engage fully in it. It is easier to shy away and try to keep the status quo than to accept that status quo has been tossed out the window and we need to drive the plot forward.

We all like status quo, but what if there is a better story out there just waiting to be written? What if there is a story out there worth reading? What if there is a Stranger Than Fiction kind of reality out there for us better than the slap the alarm clock, get dressed, go to work, do it all again tomorrow kind of life?

It's become one of my "check-in" "how ya doing" questions I ask myself on a regular basis: Are you choosing to live a good story right now? If the answer is "yes," is there an opportunity to live an even better story? If the answer is "no," how can you start living a better story right now?

There is a better story available to most of us if we will choose to engage it.

If you are living a pretty drab story right now, challenge yourself. What are five things you can do to live a better story?  Go outside and play catch with your daughter?  Take the vacation you've been dreaming of?  Start a blog? Take an art class? Ask her on a date? Go line-dancing? Log-on to the job search engine? Read that book?

Check-in time, and I'm pulling out my journal right now to make my five things list. 

How are you going to start living a better story today?

If you like the life as story concept, I suggest you read more in Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Since writing the book, Miller has also created the Storyline conference to further explore the concept and help others learn to engage in their story.

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