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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Spoke to Donald Miller Today

I spoke to Donald Miller today.  Dwayne put me up to it.

Donald spoke in chapel at APU so Noelle and I buzzed on over to listen.  I really enjoyed it.  Donald has an unconventional take on Christianity, he's authentic, funny, and a good writer.  Also he writes creative nonfiction!

"Just tell him as a creative nonfiction writer, you enjoy his work," Dwayne coached me.  It seemed harmless enough, so even though I already felt the burn of embarrassment, I moseyed on over to the cluster of college students surrounding him.  Dwayne followed beaming from ear to ear.  He's such a good cheer leader.

"Hey, should I tell him about the article I'm writing?" I asked, leaning into Dwayne.  

"Sure!" he retorted.

The thought came to mind because that morning Donald had chosen nudity as his topic for chapel.  He talked about the passage from Genesis that says, "And they were naked and did not feel ashamed."

As it happens, I'm currently writing an article for Ungrind about an evening I spent naked at a Korean Day Spa, and the revelations it brought me regarding vulnerability.  In fact, the whole time Donald was talking I was taking mental notes.  He'll probably turn up in the story somewhere.

So for better or worse, I dove into the bodies swimming around Donald and walked up with Noelle strapped to my back.  

From beginning to end I'm embarrassed of the conversation.  When I have to think on the spot like that, I think in a fog.  It's like my mind slows down, half speed and my words betray me. 

I share all of this conversation with you, because sharing purges the embarrassment, right?

"I want to tell my daughter ten years from now that she met Donald Miller."

Stop. Right. There.  Who is Donald Miller?  Bono?  The Dali Lama? The President? I shake my head already.

He grinned sweetly and leant over to look at Noelle who promptly gave him the cold shoulder.

"Ah, she won't look at me," he said.

"Well I just wanted to tell you that I'm a creative nonfiction writer..."

Wait. Wait. Wait.  Dwayne's version was so much more gracious, so much less obnoxious and self-important, "As a creative nonficiton writer, I enjoy your work."  

His eyebrows lifted, the corners of his mouth turned down, he nodded his head to say, "Is that so?"  

"And I really enjoy your work."


"And I just wanted to mention that I happen to be writing an article on nudity."

"On what?" He leaned his head in, the students around us were talking very loudly and the nuances of my words were getting lost.  Or at least, that's what I told myself.


"Oh!" He snapped his head back.

"On a night I spent at a Korean Day Spa." He interrupted me.

"Oh, like David Sedaris.  He wrote about his weekend at a nudist colony."  I nodded my head, but inside I was panicking.  I wanted him to understand that I wasn't just telling him about my article on nudity for the sake of nudity, but because there's a deeper meaning there.  A theme that is going to be informed by his talk, but I didn't get that far - I laughed awkwardly.  "Yeah."

Great, now he thinks I was a pervert mom, with a baby on her back.  

"Well, I really love your work." I said.  Not totally true.  I really enjoyed his first book.  I haven't read his most famous, "Blue Like Jazz."  And Love is a word I would reserve for Anne Lamott's work, or Annie Dillard's, or Joan Didion's.  But still, I really like his stuff.

"Well, I love writing it."  

Oh how the words just kept flowing out of my mouth unchecked.

"I'm sure you do!  I'm so jealous of your life!"

It was written all over his face - disbelief.  He looked down at Noelle and back at me, and there was no time for back peddling.  The man has never been in a relationship.  He's thirty years old and single, and while he has a very successful career, I absolutely would not trade my life for his.  He knew it, I knew it, but the words were already out and another student was already moving in for their piece.

This is why Donald is successful.  He is honest even when it hurts him, even when it makes his readers uncomfortable.  I could see it on his face in that second.  He would not let me romanticize his life.  He would not let me turn him into a celebrity.


Blogger Amanda said...


Forgive the length of this comment, but I thought you might be interested in seeing what was on Donald Miller's blog this morning:


Me: (Oooh! A beautiful woman is walking right at me. She’s smiling! I’m so bad at talking to women. Maybe I can muster the guts to ask her for her number.”

Woman: "I want to tell my daughter ten years from now that she met Donald Miller."

Me: (Oh. Baby. She’s married. What to do now? Babies hate me. They HATE me. What’s wrong with me that even infants look the other way? Maybe they can detect a malignant spirit inside) "Ah, she won't look at me.”

Woman: "Well I just wanted to tell you that I'm a creative nonfiction writer...And I really enjoy your work."

Me: "Thanks," (Whew, I managed to get a single word out without sounding foolish).

Woman: "And I just wanted to mention that I happen to be writing an article on sdfjsjfkdsjfjshdfk."

Me: (Crap. My hearing was never that good.) "On what?"

Woman: "Nudity!"

Me: "Oh!" (Now she’s gonna think I’m a perv, asking her to shout the word “Nudity” over and over again.)

Woman: "On a night I spent at a Korean Day Spa."

Me: "Oh, like David Sedaris. He wrote about his weekend at a nudist colony." (Shoot. Not only did I interrupt her, I implied that her work might be derivative. I hate when people make comments like that to me. I can’t believe I actually said that out loud. I sound like such a snob.)

Woman: "Yeah. Well, I really love your work."

Me: "Well, I love writing it." (Smooth. Talk about derivative.)

Woman: "I'm sure you do! I'm so jealous of your life!"

Me: (Nothing. I got nothing. She’s gonna think I’m completely ungrateful. Just say ‘thank you’ and move on. Sigh. Oh well. Hopefully she won’t go and write an article at my difficulty to converse in normal, social settings.)

5:34 AM  
Blogger Anne Canright said...

Christin, this is wonderful. I love how slow and easy it is--well, easy except that you're describing mortification! It's a telling moment, and one that I can 100 percent identify with. Is it being star-struck? Or is it some past self inside us that takes over from the adult (ill-advisedly) and plunges us right back into old insecurities, old doubts, old struggles? The Christin I know is self-assured, gracious, engaging, thoughtful, and a wonderful writer--so where was she in this conversation? And why did that other Christin step forward? (I've been thinking about this sort of thing lately--and was experiencing it somewhat last week while I was traveling, talking to strangers... and while talking, observing myself as well, getting a sense of just who, as a friend of mine puts it, was "driving the bus." Maybe that's not what was going on in your situation, but it certainly reminds me of times when I've had to unseat my current driver and regain control of the bus.) Thanks for posting this. Did it help to purge the embarrassment? I hope so.

And Amanda: Thank YOU for posting Donald Miller's blog. I'm SO glad he can be as honest as Christin--and funny as well!

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Samantha said...

This is such a fun post. We work a lot with Donald Miller (I'm a writer at Bluefish TV) and actually just produced a DVD resource of his workshop in writing.
Anyhow, I read your "naked spa" article on Ungrind and loved it. I've been trying to connect with Creative Non-fiction writers for quite a while and have had a hard time finding them. So it's refreshing to read your writing. I will definitely be back and would love to talk writing with you- if you're up for it?!

3:12 PM  

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