Life As Story

FOR A WHILE NOW I've been working on a project called, "Storyline." It's the brainchild of Donald Miller. The project is about creating a life-planning process based on the elements of story and was developed combining the principles of screenwriting and storytelling.

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller--for several reasons: one, he is an excellent writer; two, his ideas of looking at our lives as STORY makes a lot of sense to me.

I love bildungsroman. Some of our most timeless and treasured stories are bildungsroman. You know the ones:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bildungsroman are stories where the protagonist "comes of age." They're about maturity, passage, and developing morally and psychologically. This word, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a German word meaning "novel of education" or "novel of formation."

For us Baby Boomers, movies like The Graduate, To Kill A Mockingbird and Rebel Without a Cause are examples of this literary genre. Some of my other favorite coming-of-age films include: Dead Poets Society, The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, and most recently Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

We all have a personal story, we're living it, and sort of making it up as we go. No doubt you remember a version of your first coming-of-age. Maybe it centered around puberty, or a religious event, or a rite of passage like the new found freedom of a driver's license. Maybe it came through a trial of some kind: losing someone close to you, a loss of innocence--something that required you to grow up fast.

Today there is a state or condition called "teen angst". I don't know if it existed when I was a teen or not. If it did, maybe it didn't have a name. In a way, this "second coming of age", as I like to call this time of impending "retirement", has some of the dread, uncertainty, and anxiety that the first coming of age had.

Quote by Donald Miller. Image from Pinterest.

Quote by Donald Miller. Image from Pinterest.

Back to Donald Miller and this whole life as story point of view--Donald wrote a memoir of sorts called, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Here's one of my favorite lines from the book:

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”
― Donald Miller

He's right; you know. Recently I found an Airstream that would have been a great fit for us. It was Used, but in great condition at a fair price. I disguised my fear of doing the deal behind a curtain of being wise and discretionary and responsible. A crock of BS, as the kids say. I was just afraid. Not that this is an example of a life-altering moment, but it is real. 

There's so much more I want to say on this topic, but I'm getting close to the "optimum word count for a good blog post." So I'll sign off with final words from Donald Miller from the same book:

“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” ― Donald Miller

P.S.: I highly recommend you watch the movie, Stranger Than Fiction, with Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman. It's a great movie about life-as-story.