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Northwest Passages: Donald Miller

Pete Springer/OPB

What does author Donald Miller learn as he edits his real life into a better story? He’s the next author in our Northwest Passages series, talking about his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

This tale is intricately connected to his 2003 best-seller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, which sold a more than a million copies (and got more than 10,000 reviews on the Goodreads website, averaging 4 stars out of 5). Two filmmakers want to turn Blue Like Jazz into a movie. Their intimate inspection of his life feeds Miller’s own decision to go beyond just writing good stories and start living them. But he finds that’s harder than it sounds.

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.

Miller’s life story is told through many books. All sift through his search for meaning and Christian spirituality. Miller was raised by his mother in Texas. He barely saw his father after his parents divorced. He wound up in Portland when he ran out of gas, worked as a writer, and hung out at Reed College (which some in Portland’s Christian community consider Hades, according to Miller, but he compares to heaven).

Now, in addition to writing, he started The Mentoring Project, which works with faith communities to mentor boys growing up without fathers. He also serves on the White House Task Force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families, part of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

If you’ve read any of his books, what do you think? And what about your own life story? Are you living a good one?

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