Last night was a great night. I invited Donald Miller into our group with the intention of stirring some things up. And by that, I mean getting people to think about some things that they normally don’t think about. Getting people to ask some tough questions. Getting people to realize that their view of Christianity, may not be shared by other Christians. Getting people to realize for example, that there are Democrats who are Christians, not just Republicans. Getting people to realize that there are other important social issues such as poverty, AIDS, Debt Relief, fiscal responsibility…not just the issues of abortion and homosexuality, that we tend to think of. Etc., etc. And that he did. While many of my students left the church pretty fired up and ready to take on the world in a new way, a few guests didn’t seemed to be as thrilled about some of the things Donald Miller had to say. Those people approached me with pretty quick, gut level reactions. Whether it was his statements on politics or the marketplace, or Christianity, there were definitely some things to think about. Like his books that I have read, he helped me look at things that I don’t tend to look at, and to ask myself if I am missing the point at times. And if he did this for others, then I believe it was a successful night.
Donald Miller began the night with about a 30 minute reading of his new book, To Own A Dragon; then did Q and A with the audience; and then closed the night by reading the author’s note from Through Painted Deserts. He was more than gracious, sticking around to sign books and talk with people until about 11pm.
I very much enjoyed my time with Donald Miller, and on our way from his hotel to church, I had an opportunity to do a very short and quick interview, picking his brain regarding some things that I have been wondering about. Nothing hard hitting, but just a few general questions that I was curious about.
The transcribed interview is below, and should be up on a Podcast, or downloadable audio file within the next day or so.
(to make the transcribed interview more legible from a reading standpoint, I have removed the “ums”, hesitations, or mumblings, that came from either Donald or I. But the entire interview is intact)
Rhett Smith: Donald, I was wondering, what is the best thing about being an author, and a writer, and traveling around and speaking at conferences to people?
Donald Miller: That’s really it. It’s traveling around and speaking, getting to meet people that have read your books. It’s really a great thing, because I can write a book, and the people that respond to it are usually people who are stimulated by the same ideas as me, or the same music, or the same books, or that sort of thing. So you tend to meet people who you just get along with pretty well. It’s sort of like a classified ad, but, you know there’s just thousands of them, so it works that way. Yeah, but its definitely…yeah, that just the thing. And being able to speak and have so many people listen, it’s a real blessing.
Rhett Smith: Since you speak to a variety of different audiences, Christians, non-Christians, seekers, kind of all over the place. Is there one central theme, or message, or what is it you are trying to convey to them, or that you hope they walk away with?
Donald Miller: There’s not. Every night is different, and some nights are just entertaining, and you are just trying to be funny, and that’s it. Tonight is a night, not unlike that. The sort of hidden agenda, if there is a hidden agenda is to show Christians how to laugh at themselves, and to show people who aren’t Christians that Christians can be normal, and entertaining, or whatever. Because I think, you know a lot of, a lot of sort of Christian attempts to reach out if you will, to people who aren’t Christians, they make them feel creepy. You know, and it feels like an Amway pitch. And so just to try to reverse as much of that as possible is often, is often the main agenda. But there are different talks. There is an academic talk for an academic campus, or reformed. Church talks for churches. And book readings for more literary audiences. So it just depends.
Rhett Smith: And that last question, and I think you probably get this all the time, but I’m just wondering. Do you have any advice that you tell someone who is interested in writing, and kind of wants to write a book, and no matter what topic it is, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
Donald Miller: Okay, well. Buy these two books: On Writing Well, by Willam Zinsser, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. After you finish memorizing those books, move onto The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, and she will get you in the mood to write. But those are the best things. As soon as you have a final manuscript, if you know someone in publishing, send the book to them, if you don’t, attend a writerâs workshop where agents will be present. That is really important. So that’s sort of practical advice on writing, but it’s certainly a great life, and even if you never get published, it’s worth articulating your thoughts on paper. It just helps you organize what you know, what you believe, what you lived. And those sorts of things.
Rhett Smith: Thanks a lot.
Donald Miller: Yeah.