I re-read a book by Donald Miller recently that I just love. It’s called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Don is a Christian writer, but his stuff doesn’t read like a typical religious book. It’s more like the random, thoughtful ramblings of a Christian who’s trying to make sense of this crazy life. (I mean no disrespect to Don, I really connect with his books.)
One of the themes of the book is the idea of story — what makes up a good story. The elements of story are similar to the elements of life. What makes a good story makes a good life.
Don comes back again and again to the question “Am I living a good story? Or is there a better story I could be living?”
Don suggests that we can actively insert ourselves into a better story, especially if we find ourselves in a dull or unexciting one.
I wrote a song that talks a little bit about this. The first verse goes like this:
This is not a story
This is not a story I would write
If I wrote this story
I’d give myself a battle I can fight
A good story involves struggle. A good story is about a character overcoming difficulty to get something he wants. Like Don says in the book, no one would watch a movie about a guy who really wants a Volvo and saves up and buys a Volvo.
Sure, I’d love to write my own story. I’d make myself completely comfortable, and I’d be absolutely miserable. What makes a good story isn’t the avoidance of conflict, it’s the conflict itself. It’s how the character responds to the conflict and how the conflict change the character.
If you find yourself wishing for a different, better story, perhaps the answer isn’t to make things easier. Perhaps the answer is to make things MORE difficult on yourself.
As it relates to music, if you feel like you’re not living a good story with your music, it’s time to do something uncomfortable. I don’t know what that is for you. Perhaps it means announcing to the world that you’re going to record an EP during the month of February. Or maybe you’ll finally release that song you’ve been working on, or book that gig you’ve been meaning to book.
The older I get, the more I see that my greatest joy usually lies on the other side of something painful. And it makes for a great story. When I identify things I’m afraid of, I’m learning to press into that more and more. I use it as a guiding light. Whatever I’m afraid of is usually a source of pain that leads to something better. And that’s a heck of a better story than watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt every night. (But Titus Andromedon is HILARIOUS.)
Am I perfect at this? Heck no. I’m a work in progress. But occasionally I’ll muster up the courage to force myself to do something I don’t want to do, or to at least start.
That’s why I decided to go to Winter NAMM this year. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but I get anxious when faced with the idea of being around a lot of people for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I really do. And I love interacting with them, but oftentimes the prospect of forcing my introverted self to be “on” for days on end scares me.
Wanna know what happens when I DO it? It’s almost always an enjoyable, satisfying experience, and I’m glad I did it. Knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I’ll have to talk myself into it next time, but it helps.
What are you afraid of? What story are you living right now? Is there a better story you could dive into? Tell me about it. Leave a comment below. I’ll be listening.
Home Studio Corner
P.S. You know what would make for a fun story? Doing an EP Challenge with my next month as a VIP member. I’m releasing an EP. Maybe you can do the same? Or release a single instead? Join here: