Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The least boring review I've ever written: Storyline.


Last week, I went to the Storyline conference in Portland and now I want to tell you about it, but I feel weird asking you to read a review of a conference since I think reviews are some of the worst reading on the internet. Dropping a conference review into somebody's reader/inbox/newsfeed is like asking for their permission to bore the crap out of them.

Whatever. I'm writing a review anyway.

So. I want to tell you everything about Storyline, but I also want to tell you nothing - because I want you to actually go, show up, sit through it for yourself, experience it. That way, when you hear me saying really nondescript things, like “It was AMAAAZING” or “It messed me up. In a good way.”, you'd just know what I mean.


The conference is hosted by Donald Miller and a crew of hard working, well-dressed, incredibly good looking staff. And a dog. Somehow this team has managed to turn 30 consecutive hours of your life into what feels like a brief stay in a top-notch psychiatric facility.

When you check in to the conference they hand you a sharpened pencil and *The Notebook of Doom. *not its actual name The people at check-in are kind; they smile gently and offer you chocolate. Looking back, I can see that they weren't just being nice - They knew. They knew I was a lamb headed for slaughter. They had seen inside the notebook and they knew that before the end of the day, I would either be well on my way to living a better story or I'd be catatonic, curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a hotel closet. The chocolate is to make you... stable. Just a little cocoa to help boost that serotonin, right when you need it most. See? Now I get it: The chocolate is to keep you from stabbing yourself with the pencil.

So, without getting too far into the material (because I really don't want to spoil it for people who attend the conference), the idea is that we only have one life to live, one story to tell, and if we don't invest heavily in our relationships, work ethic, and spirit right now, we will die tomorrow ~or 50 years from tomorrow~ leaving a really boring story behind us. And that would be regretful.

That's where the Notebook of Doom comes in. The conference uses this book to walk you through several different modules relating to your life, using storytelling as a guideline. It takes you through the process of breaking down your history and your present, examining them pretty closely, and then rebuilding with a plan to improve your future. The purpose is to help you walk away with a map of your ambitions, hopes, and inspirations – and the motivation to move toward those goals.

Don Miller leads the charge through some pretty heady material with warmth and a whole lot of humor. The guest interviews were (mostly) engaging and memorable. I was particularly charmed by Bob Goff. This man, whom I had stupidly written off as goofy and overrated, is actually one of the most charismatic, enthusiastic, and seemingly genuine people I've ever been in the same room with. I LOVED him - Yes, capitalized L.O.V.E.D. him, he was that great.

I do have a couple of complaints...

First, the sessions were broken up by long breaks and “homework”. I found myself a little too overwhelmed by the material to want to sit down and scribble out my response in ten minutes. I wanted to think. I wanted to eat my chocolate, stab myself with my pencil, and then think about everything for awhile. My husband filled out the majority of his notebook while we were in Portland, over lunch and in our hotel room - I doodled all over mine, but didn't touch the good stuff until we got home and I'd had some time to process.

The other thing that kind of bugged me was that there seemed to be a lot, I mean a lot, of people who were treating this as a writers conference, like they were there to learn to write a better story – and so they were kind of missing the point. (I get that this is just me, being annoyed – a common occurrence) but it gave the open Q&A sessions a douchey, pseudo-intellectual feel. Answers to questions like “Who are your role models and why?” were exactly what you'd expect to hear from a bunch of wannabe Christian authors; C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nietzsche, crap like that. I wanted so badly for someone to call out “Julia Child” or “Martin Scorsese” or “Scott Hamilton”. I even nudged my husband and told him I was going to shout, “Chelsea Handler! Because she broke away from her odd religious upbringing to pursue a dream - and while she's a total hedonist, at least she's fully committed. Plus, we both like Vodka.” I didn't do it... but I still kind of wish I had.

Overall, the conference was good.

It was like a a partial lobotomy with a gentle massage. It was deep and a little agonizing, but comforting and redeeming.

I give it 5 Stars....2 Thumbs Up....Miss Congeniality...Best in Show...

I dunno. It was just a really good conference. If you can attend, I'd recommend it. 

That concludes this boring review.

You may go about your business.

…. …. ….

Ever been to a conference or read a book that changed your life? Do tell...