Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a story about stories. Miller realizes while working on a movie based on his life story and book, Blue Like Jazz, that his life isn’t really all that interesting or cinematic. He then goes on a quest to make his life into a great story; he doesn’t just want to write great stories, he wants to live one. He goes about this using the structure of the proper way to write a good story and the book is divided into sections based on this: exposition, a character, a character who wants something, a character who wants something and overcomes conflict, and finally, a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
The first half of the book was hard to get through because it consisted mostly of the author wondering why his story weren’t better and attending writing classes about storytelling. Once he realizes that he can’t just sit around thinking about what would make his story interesting and actually needs to get out into the world and start living, the book becomes much better.
Even better than the author finally getting out of the house and out into the world, are the stories of some of the people he meets along the way. Miller writes them with such love and compassion, you feel like you know them. One of the other great stories of the book is about his cross country bicycle ride to raise money for a charity. Yet we only get bits and pieces of the journey. I found myself wishing the book were solely about that bicycle trip and what he learned about the kindness of strangers and tenacity of the human spirit along the way.
It’s an interesting take on telling a story but some of the effort of breaking the book into parts to fit the theme took away from the overall message of the story: be selfless and honestly engaged in life and people, and the great stories will come.