Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson is my “book of the month” for every writer.
Andrew Peterson is a well-known musician, songwriter, and author. He’s won the Christy Award for best YA novel and WORLD magazine’s Children’s Book of the Year. Over ten years ago, he founded a ministry called The Rabbit Room which encourages and cultivates a vibrant Christian arts community in Nashville, Tennessee. They publish articles, books, and musicians. In addition, they have an annual conference called Hutchmoot which was just held two weekends ago. (Past speakers have included Walter Wangerin Jr., Sally Lloyd Jones, Phil Vischer, Leif Enger, and Luci Shaw.)
What makes Andrew’s new book fascinating is his wonderful background as a mixture of one who creates in two seemingly distinct areas of the arts: music and writing. To you writers who are also musicians, you understand the connection. To you writers who are not, this exploration can open up your soul to new methods of creativity.
There is a genuine humility in the musings of this volume. He cuts to the heart of every author’s anxiety and the need to face the reality of the creative process. Read this excerpt from page 79:
How do you know if you’re on the right track? You share it with someone. … But not just anyone. Share it with a better writer than you. Share it with someone who’ll be careful with you, who will tell you the truth in love. Sometimes you’ll thank them kindly and ignore them completely because what do they know, anyway? Other times they’ll confirm your worst suspicions, because you knew all along that something wasn’t working, but, let’s face it again, you were being lazy. You just wanted to be done. That’s the cancer. That’s the nest of roaches you have to exterminate from your story. Roll up your sleeves and kill them dead, because the world has enough bad stories. Nobody said it would be easy.
And this excerpt from pages 44-45:
Art shouldn’t be about self-expression or self-indulgence. Art shouldn’t be about self. The paradox is that art is necessarily created by a Self, and will necessarily draw some measure of attention or consideration to the artist. But the aim ought to be for the thing to draw attention, ultimately to something other than the Self. For a Christian, that means accepting this paradox in the knowledge, or at least in the hope, that my expression, even if it is of the most intimate chambers of my heart, can lead the audience beyond me and to the Ultimate Self, the Word that made the world. In that grand chamber alone will art find its best end, as an avenue to lead the audience Home.
Read that paragraph again. Out loud this time. Does it resonate?
This book, Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson, is full of thoughtful words on the life and soul of an artist/author. I highly recommend it to every reader of this post.
You owe it to yourself to get a copy and read it with a pen and highlighter.
[I did not receive a copy for free. I bought it within minutes of hearing about its release.]
The quotation from 44-45 is a great challenge. I understand what Andrew is saying, and I quite agree. The paradox and challenge for us is that we are simultaneously building platform. We are engaged in the delicate dance of becoming known, but not to become known, rather to make Him known. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes of all time.
“The greatest danger of notoriety is you start thinking about you. People then exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled.” ~ Randy Alcorn
Damon, for you, just for fun, re Randy Alcorn’s quote:
I have a loving view of life;
all people I hold dear.
So please accept, avoiding strife:
It’s my world, you’re just here.
It’s not that I think myself better;
the tabloids say that this is true,
that I’m a noble man of letters,
and so I have a job for you.
You’ll be privileged to fetch and carry,
to hold up mirrors, make me shine,
and if you’ve a daughter I might marry,
bring a photo; is she fine?
The veracity is – I’ll say it flat –
when God made me, said, “Can’t top that!”
Pp. 44-45 resonate.
Of course my writing’s all ’bout me,
excepting that it’s not.
It’s really ’bout the mystery
worked in my soul by God.
I’m sure He heaves a heavy sigh
on rising every day
to see how close to hell I’m nigh,
and then bends to shape the clay.
As He works, does He whistle?
Is there a soundtrack to His care?
I’ll maintain Yes, in each epistle,
for there’s Music in the air.
Thus all I am is clumsy midwife
to the ever-borning tale, God’s Life.
The whole cockroaches thing really strikes a cord (or a chord: Waka Waka). I’ve been cleaning and polishing for about six months now. I imagined it would be a rough draft then maybe two edits. After that triumph. Silly me. Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” So yeah, I’m squishing roaches. I like that image because you get one chance to make a good first impression. I really don’t want bugs scurrying across the page while someone is taking valuable time to consider my work. I already know I’m nose-blind to some issues so destroying all the creepy crawlers is paramount.
Beautifully expressed…it absolutely resonates the truth of a Christian writer…the work is not mine, but Thine…that puts it in perspective with every rewrite and rejection…not mine, but THINE…in His time…amen
Thanks for the recommendation, Steve. Ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it.
oh wow. Great words! Teared (cry-type not rip me up but that could count too) me up a bit, realizing WHY I have spent so long rewriting the same MS over and over ad nauseum. The better authors have both thrilled me and frustrated me, but the outcome improves my writing each time. For the ‘time being’ I have put this MS to rest since I can’t stand one more read, and so I can work on something fresh & get to the books I have purchased.
I see a trip to Amazon is in order.
j arthur moore
Thanks for the recommendation, Steve. I’ll have to reduce the stack on my “to read” table before I can add to it. I wish to share that my work, Journey Into Darkness, a story in four parts, [or the 4-book series] was just selected for the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge for its National Awards — the George Washington Honor Medal. If anyone is interested, it’s available from http://www.omnibookcompany.com/journeyintodarkness/, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Thanks, and congratulations to Andrew Patterson for his Christy Award.
Yes! Just what I needed. I also read his sample chapters on Amazon. Love, love Andrew’s powerful song, “Is He Worthy?” It’s one of my favorites. Just bought his book on Kindle–thanks for the recommendation!
I just purchased ADORNING THE DARK. Thank you so very much for your valued recommendation.