Donald Miller, New York Times best-selling author of Blue Like Jazz, brought his Storyline Conference to Belmont University’s campus this week. Based on another best-selling book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Storyline is a two-day event that walks registrants through the steps of writing a life-plan using the elements of story.
More than 500 people attended the conference, including more than a dozen Belmont students and staff members. Miller guided participants through five sessions and accompanying modules to help them map their life story.
Belmont senior Daniel Warner said, “The Storyline conference caused me to see the evident connectedness between my daily actions and the progression of my life’s overarching narrative… The content of the conference laid an important framework for future reflection. The notebook exercises were well-designed in a way that made it easy to categorize life events and see the path my life has been taking.”
Suzanne Clement, assistant to the dean in the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, added, “Life as story is an empowering metaphor. Storyline challenged me to create a compelling life story by investing in something bigger than myself, something that ‘saves many lives.’ It was a call to believe in my own agency, to not be afraid, to commit to making a difference.”
Miller noted in the opening session, “A story consists of a character who wants something and must overcome conflict to get it.” Using that definition as a guide, Miller advocated for conference participants to analyze their own life stories for the elements of character, roles, desire, conflict and perseverance, among others. “Conflict transforms character and teaches us to value our ambitions.”
In addition to the sessions, registrants were treated to appearances from a number of special guests, including Grammy-winning, multi-platinum selling artist Amy Grant, who gave the audience a well-received 30-minute acoustic concert.
Other guests who were featured for their own inspirational stories included new author of Love Does, Bob Goff, the founder/CEO of nonprofit Restore International, which addresses injustices committed against children, and Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Local counselor/author Al Andrews was also featured in an interview segment with Miller. Andrews is the founder and director of two nonprofit organizations: Porter’s Call (a ministry of counseling and support for recording artists) and Improbable Philanthropy (a movement to promote radical generosity).
Belmont senior Jordan Yeager noted how each of the special guests exemplified the conference’s theme. “Storyline gave me permission to knock down doors, dream big and take action in my story… The speakers were incredible examples of the fun, inspiring, interesting lives we can live if we are intentional. They each challenged me in a unique way to climb out of the formulaic understanding I had of life.”