Living a Better Creative Story

I heard about a guy once who wrote a book about his journey and other things and a lot of his sentences started like I started this one.


The grammar, incomplete sentences and all the boring (but geekily important) stuff about writing correctly drove me nuts while reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

But I cried a bit at the end.

Yeah, I cried.

All the rambling sentences aside. It’s a good story. It’s a great story. It’s a transformative story.

Here’s a bit of a new story. Told in his style.

Ala Donald Miller

Sometimes I wonder if all this spectating isn’t good for me. I watch TV. Go to a show. Read a book. Laugh at a movie. I’m enjoying it all. I’m relaxing. It’s great.

But I’m not creating.

I’m watching someone else do something I want to do more of. Seeing people act in shows. Hearing the words of the writing. The cleverness and the boldness and the orginailty speak to something deeper, something that must’ve been put down in the aching part of us that some people call ‘the heart’ but is really deeper than the heart. It’s that part that swims when you love someone. Or sinks when they don’t love you back.

It’s a calling to create and it’s been put there by something or Someone or maybe I just made it up but I know it’s there. I feel it. And I hear it when I watch the world pass by and I feel the jealousy creep in.


My friend Kip went to a psychologist once and he talked to the head doctor about the voices he was hearing in his head. The voices said all kinds of things that weren’t really all that helpful and the psychologist guy told my friend that the voice he was hearing has a name: ‘critical parent.’

So I asked Kip what that meant and he wasn’t really sure so we got a bottle of wine one night and talked about it. He told me about growing up and how supportive his folks were so he didn’t understand what the doctor meant by critical parent. And I don’t know if it was the wine or not, but Kip said something I’ll never forget.

Maybe the doctor was saying that the voice of ‘the critical parent’ is all the bad stuff I can’t seem to ever forget. Ever. Like when I played basketball in high school and missed an important shot one game and I came to the coach afterward and as I was walking up to him I could see him sigh and roll his eyes.

Kip’s aha moment widened and I could see him coming alive in the realizations. His eyes were glassy and his face started to get wet one trickle after another. He went on.

Or when I put my arm around my prom date, hoping she’d at least lean into me and all I felt was her body saying ‘are you kidding me? Keep your distance loser.’

Kip cursed a few times and I realized he was throwing up his critical parent. He was getting rid of it, or him, or her or whatever you call a ‘critical parent.’ It was like his breakthrough became visible right in front of my eyes. I could see him shedding the old skin and he started to glow.

His face started to glow.

I never knew what the word ‘glory’ meant before this happened, but I’m sure that when someone’s face starts to glow, that’s what glory looks like.

And I wanted that glory for myself.

If I were to live a better story, get off the creative sidelines and join the playing field, I knew I’d have to shed some skin.


How does this story resonate with you and your creative journey? (Check out Miller’s book HERE)



Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Andrew, this was great! I think there’s even a lesson in Miller’s creative license with the language: if the rules get in the way of the story you want to tell, don’t jettison the story! IKYKWIM.

    And this post, like Miller’s book, does that so very well: you break the rules to tell a story that works on so many levels.

    I know altogether too well of both the actual ‘critical parent,’ and that inner monologue mimics.

    Would Pressfield call this the ‘Resistance?’

    Good stuff! Going to read it through again a couple times.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Pressfield probably would indeed.

      Thanks for reading Chad. I’m honored that you stop by here. Love your wit.

  • This is a great review. And I love this line the most: “I never knew what the word ‘glory’ meant before this happened, but I’m sure that when someone’s face starts to glow, that’s what glory looks like.”

    • Andrew Zahn

      Glory is a powerful word isn’t it?! It’s one of my favs.

      So glad you enjoyed the post Rebecca.

      • yep yep yep, excellent thoughts here Andrew! indeed, it has me thinking today 🙂

        Glory is a very powerful word, I need to think about it more!

  • I think the ‘critical parent’ in all of us is kept hidden away, to a place we try to forget. Suppression only lasts so long when something that needs to get out finds its way to the surface, despite our best efforts. (I’m thinking of what happens when you try to hold a beach ball under the water)

    Creativity comes out best with truth. True art comes from honesty. If you’re not being honest with your readers, or yourself for that matter, you’re destined to remain stagnant.

    We have to work out what’s holding us back so we can move forward.
    Great post, my friend. Enjoyed it so much….it hurts.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Beach ball under water = awesome suppression analogy.

      I think, truthfully, that’s why most of us create. We have something that MUST get out and must be shared. We might be dangerous (and not the good kind) if we don’t.

      Thanks for reading and pondering along with us Scott.

  • the voice of the critical parent…i know

    there comes a time when we just HAVE to leave home! 😉

    really good post thanks!

    • Andrew Zahn

      Glad you popped in Arna!

      Sometimes we have to leave home even when we haven’t been there in decades . . . and sometime it has nothing at all to do with our home.

  • I find that as I’ve been creating more, my consumption rate has decreased…I mean I have a 5 great magazines just lying there waiting to be read…but the call to create is more satisfying than that of consumption.

    I can identify with his writing style…meaning that I’m not trained as a writer either, but I get the message across and hopefully inspire along the way.

    • Andrew Zahn

      The consumer/creator tightrope walk. . . I hear ya Brent.

      I think we as creatives start to feel a wee bit unbalanced when we are merely consuming right? We want to contribute!

  • I have read this book, and it is awesome! It is a must read!

  • Good stuff Andrew. I like your Miller-esque writing here. I loved A Million Miles, and your story here definitely resonates. This idea of needing to shed skin, to get to the core yourself first, that’s great stuff.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Thanks Stephen. It’s funny, although I didn’t enjoy his writing style, it really affected me. It’s very conversational.

  • First of all… I love that book!

    Secondly, powerful story. Thanks for sharing it! It’s very true that in order to get to the raw creativity within us all, we need to shed some things. Fear, doubt… it’s time to let it all go Neo, it’s time to free your mind. *jumps from one building to another*

    …sorry, sometimes I randomly break out into movie quotes. 😉

    • Andrew Zahn

      *Andrew sits down computer. Puts The Matrix in the DVD player.