December 24, 2009 by

In Which I Ramble About How I Wish I Could Write Like Donald Miller


Categories: it's all about me, Meanderings (look it up), Things I Should Probably Not Be Telling You

I don’t know if anyone but me remembers this, but I started this blog as practice, as a way of processing my thoughts, with the intention of eventually writing a book.

That was two years ago next week.

I have a friend who says I should write a book. He feels it so strongly he thinks God wants me to write a book. I tell him, fine, I’ll write a book–but every time I think I know what I want the book to be about, something changes and I either feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I lose interest in the subject. I actually wrote a first draft about my journey out of the institutional church–but looking at it now, it seems unbelievably narcissistic. Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks am I to tell anyone what the church should look like? So I started this blog to create “raw material”, to process and discuss. And I’ve been a compulsive blogger ever since.

I think mainly it’s because I’m the kind of person who thrives on the interaction and response, and when you write a book you have to write a long time, then wait a long time before someone tells you how good it was and asks you to sign it. With a blog, you write something and BAM! someone leaves a comment, someone tells you how they related to it, how they’re going through the same thing, and how you totally changed their life by that once sentence you wrote.

Instant gratification. That’s what I’m all about. That’s why I’m a blogger. 🙂


I still want to write a book someday, but like I said, I get hung up on what exactly that book ought to be like, and what it should be about. I thought at first it ought to be about worship, since that was my “thing”, and all. But honestly, as I got started with putting some ideas to paper, I realized I was bored silly–because I’d been over that material a thousand times, taught it in seminars, demonstrated it over and over again. The last thing I wanted to do was write it all down again in book form. Shelving that plan was actually a good idea, because since then my whole picture of worship has been revamped, and I would have had to denounce my own book. Awkward.

Then when all the stuff happened that finally woke me up to the fact that I was no longer part of the institutional church, and couldn’t be anymore, I thought I’d write a book about that. That’s where the rough draft came from–and I felt good writing it because I did feel I had something to say. Then I found out lots of other books had already been written about the same thing, and that’s when I started to feel narcissistic. Plus, I have this thing where I want to be the first guy to say something, and I lose interest in a new idea when I find out someone already had it before me. Besides, narcissists don’t make good book writers–they make good bloggers.

And then there’s the whole thing about research. I figured if an unknown like me was going to write a book, he’d have to research a lot of material and cite a lot of sources to make his work look scholarly, like he knew what he was talking about. I have to be in a certain kind of mood to do research, and I don’t like having to cite my work. I don’t have the patience for it. I’d rather just say what I think, and spew my opinion and have you, the reader, believe I am the expert and don’t need to prove my point at all. Again…a perfect fit for blogging.

One thing I’ve noticed in all the reading I have done the past three years–my favorite kind of book seems to be the reflective kind, sort of a bunch of essays put into book form. Books that don’t seem to be about anything in particular, but you really get something out of them anyway. I loved Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazzfor this very reason. I just started his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Same deal–love it.

I totally wish I could write like Donald Miller. He doesn’t do footnotes. He just says stuff the way he thinks it, reflects upon this thing or that thing, and tells stories about stuff that’s happened to him, and he’s absolutely hysterical about it. That’s the kind of book I’d like to write–the kind where I don’t have to do a lot of homework. I’d just say stuff and it would be hilarious, and people would like it so much they’d want to make movies about it. But at the same time, it would make you think, and ponder, and in the pondering, something in your heart and mind shifts.

Just like Donald Miller writes it.

But I’m not Donald Miller. I tried. I tried reworking my material to sound crazy funny like Donald Miller. It just came off like I was trying to be Donald Miller. And I’m not.

So I guess, yeah, someday, there will be a book. Maybe I’ll get particularly inspired and know what to write and how to write it, and it won’t sound like Donald Miller, but it will still be good.

But for now…I guess this is my book. I’m just sort of writing it as I go, a moment at a time. And I’m good with that for now.

Now if only I could get people to pay me to do this, like Donald Miller gets paid to write stuff.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

9 Responses to In Which I Ramble About How I Wish I Could Write Like Donald Miller

  1. Al

    Yah, I like Miller. For me, his style is kinda scattered–a collage of life experiences that taken together present the portrait of a guy becoming the kind of person I want to become. Savvy, in touch, real, wanting to be like Christ. His theology and philosophy of life isn't presented straight on, but you pick it up as you go along.

    I suppose the same is true for most of us who blog. You could figure out what's most important to us by looking at a tag cloud (if we have one) more than examining a statement of faith (if we had one).

    I like your confession about instant gratification, and wanting to be the first to say something. I might not have realized it before, but I think I share your guilt. (But you said it first, and here I am stroking your ego by admiring it.) 🙂

    If you are going to be a successful writer, though, you need to use a few 'colorful' words ( It appears that you have to be edgy to get read, and to be edgy you have to uncleanup your vocab.

    So, good luck. But whatever you do, don't quit blogging!

  2. Randi Jo :)

    lol u crack me up. 🙂

    well I love this 'book' and I would buy it.

    If you are ready for your next short essay (blog entry) how about an entry on more of your thoughts on 'marketing of the church' that is around these days? your Sunday meditation post where you crossed off the podcast/mass marketing campaign cracked me up. more thoughts on this new movements that new young business leaders = great pastors (some say)…. or great church leadership teams = great marketers that I see everywhere?

    Merry Christmas!!!

  3. rob

    I so relate to what you're talking about… I love to write too. The short and sweet stuff that is; you know, more than a twitter but less than a book. I don't blog. I want to. I haven't written a book. People tell me I ought to. ("You should write a book!"… they say, so I have lots of ideas and disconnected stuff for "my book" floating 'round and 'round…) They say keep writing… so I do.

    But you've nailed the deal: Writing is so narcissistic… It is, isn't it. (Don't make me be honest.) My writing is, and yours, and anybody that writes, I think. It's part of the package. I have wanted for quite some time to blog; aint it just another cover for a narcisstic writer; 'cause part of blogging is about promoting me. At least if me wants to have readers…

    What a bummer.
    I always wanted it to be about… you know… Jesus. Or at least be about something new inspired by him, or by his Spirit, or somethin'. So, is there anything new under the sun? And how could I, narcissistic me, even dream I could say it better, even if I got the new download… . Could it ever be? Can men/women still write as those given inspiration?
    Oh yes.

    We get a peek sometimes at that in other's writing (Ann L… and Donald M…). And then we get suprised at times even with our own. And that keeps us writing… But, most of the time I can't stand the thought of it all. Write and make money? That would be sweet! (But let's get real.) Well then, at least write to inspire, right? Write to move someone, anyone(is there anyone out there reading this…?)out there, closer to the Kingdom…

    But… write a book!? Too long. To much work and yeah, too slow on the feed back… And besides, my trouble is I like prose and poetry(what!?)too. No money in that. And who reads that stuff anyway!? I'm stuck being your average poetic (pathetic! 😉 short story, maybe blogger, type guy, in a world where average doesn't make it. I'd write more and betterer too, if I could only get beyond(me and) all of that.


  4. Al

    Rob, your comments cause me to think about prophets. Although there is a certain amount of narcissism in their writing, their purpose was to bring God's people to a new place of understanding (or perhaps to return to an old one).

    Brian McLaren refers to "priests, prophets, poets and philosophers." I think those of us who like to write a bit fall into at least one of those categories, perhaps more.

    What we say doesn't have to be new in order for it to have value. It doesn't even need to be said in a profound or catchy way. If it is something that needs to be said, that people need to hear, someone will find it and it will motivate them.

    I encourage you to consider blogging. It provides various ways to be creative, and to unload those things that might be a fire in your belly. And with any luck, people will read it, and your ego will also be satisfied.

  5. Anonymous

    I mean; I just can't believe that I came across your blog………because I was looking up some info on Billy Jo's death. (That made me sob! This guy knew faith, right? So, all of that stuff that I have listened to for years has me doubting….well; did before his death). And, I love the church my husband (of 36 years) has chosen to go to; but, want the Holy Spirit to be 'big' in the services we attend. He seems a little pushed back at the mega church we attend (in Indianapolis), but still there. I am told that I have a book in me. But, sometimes I want to cuss at people who mess things up so bad (in the name of God), and I know that I shouldn't do that (good former Roman Catholic, Minnesota girl). But……..oh, never mind. Just suffice it to say; I get it! I get what you're saying! But, I still believe in church. I always will. Have to fellowship with others; whether we believe everything they do, or not.

  6. rob

    You know Al, you are right. The prophetic is spoken because there is a fire lit within the prophet to speak. An annointing. A speaking forth for God himself: Humbling and dangerous isn't it, as it comes with warning, i.e., the N.T.'s "let not many teach…", and the O.T.'s false prophets who were to be stoned…!?

    So I hear ya, if the fire is there, it should be acted upon. And in blogging the prophetic can be tested…

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