Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (B&H Publishing, 2019)
By Andrew Peterson
Ever read a book and started jumping up and down with:
“Yes! YES! He gets it! I get what he gets! Someone has finally put into words what I’ve felt about the creative process for years! Zippity doo-dah, zippity-aye!”
Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark is one of those books.
This warm and wonderful memoir/biography captures the joys and agonies of the creative process with sudsing effervesce. It’s an artful blend of pithy observations, practical advice, and personal example. It also has a ring of clarity and authenticity which make a delightful read.
Laced with humor, grace and a rapier wit, Adorning the Dark skillfully articulates many of the thoughts typically roaming creative minds. Examples:
- How hard the creative process can be
- How the creative process works
- Why create, from a Christian perspective
- Why “intention trumps execution”
- The importance of a “willingness to fail” and the “mountain of evidence” that the Maker has never left nor forsaken you.
- Why we’re not invited into the creative process because God needs us, but because He wants us.
- How one can reveal His majesty through the creative process
- Christian art might be defined as work that is, like Christ, full of grace and truth.
- “Write like you would say it.”
- “Being a writer doesn’t just mean writing. It means finishing.”
- Art shouldn’t be about self-expression or self-indulgence. The aim of art is to draw attention to something other than self – to “the Word that made the world.”
The author also touches on a rarely-mentioned segment of the creative arts: How Christians are called to speak light into the darkness and how darkness wants to shut you up. Also how and why you can resist and fight back.
Included in this highly engaging biography is what the author calls “imaginal segregation.” He says it’s that secret longing for beauty and adventure rather than a dull life that includes Christianity as he understood it. He also discusses how the magic of fairy tales can express Truth (hello, Narnia and Middle Earth!). Ditto how a redeemed, integrated imagination can leave the reader “with a painful longing that points them home.” And smuggle light into this present darkness.
Even though much of the book is directed at songwriting, it includes insights into the creative process as a whole. Like, “Songs require patience. Books require endurance.” Both require work. Imagination. Courage. And revision.
Peterson also discusses “cultivating a writing life.” Developing a sense of discernment regarding “artistic junk food” – stuff that’s an easy sell, made for money, and banal at best. Ditto how a song or another work of art can “make you actually feel something, a tingle in a place you thought long dead.”
- How the creative process involves “miraculous moments of solitude” and isn’t magic. It’s work. :
- “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write anything
- The importance of “miraculous moments of solitude.”
- Losing oneself to “surrender to sacredness.”
Adorning the Dark rims with truth anchored in a biblical worldview. Peterson addresses leaning into the creative process in a way that’s practical and down-to-earth without being preachy. A lengthy reading list and additional resources are also included.
Adorning the Dark isn’t a throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks, crank-it-out-quick to make a buck kind of book. The author takes time to ponder and think deeply about the creative process as he explores the intricacies of How, Why, and WHO related to the ‘mystery of making.’
At one point Peterson observes:
“The best way to of pushing yourself into new territory isn’t pushing yourself as much as it is allowing yourself to be pulled along.”
Allow yourself to be “pulled along” by this book. You’ll be glad you did!
Mom and Kimber’s Score: 5.0
“Andrew Peterson has performed thousands of concerts, published four novels, released ten albums, taught college and seminary classes on writing, founded a nonprofit ministry for Christians in the arts, and executive-produced a film—all in a belief that God calls us to proclaim the gospel and the coming kingdom using whatever gifts are at our disposal. He’s stumbled along the way, made mistake after mistake, and yet has continually encountered the grace of God through an encouraging family, a Christ-centered community of artists in the church, and the power of truth, beauty, and goodness in Scripture and the arts.”