Over the last twenty years, 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.
While there are many books about writing, none deal first-hand with the intersection of songwriting, storytelling, and vocation, along with nuts-and-bolts exploration of the great mystery of creativity. In Adorning the Dark, Andrew describes six principles for the writing life:
Through stories from his own journey, Andrew shows how these principles are not merely helpful for writers and artists, but for anyone interested in imitating the way the Creator interacts with his creation. This book is both a memoir of Andrew’s journey and a handbook for artists, written in the hope that his story will provide encouragement to others stumbling along in pursuit of a calling to adorn the dark with the light of Christ.
You can think and plan and think some more, but none of that is half as important as doing something, however imperfect or incomplete it is. Intention trumps execution—remember that.
Sometimes you start with nothing and hope it all works out. Not sometimes—every time. All you really have is your willingness to fail, coupled with the mountain of evidence that the Maker has never left nor forsaken you.
Write about your smallness. Write about your sin, your heart, your inability to say anything worth saying. Watch what happens.
At times, characters become aware that they’re part of a story, and that brings the realization that, first, there is an author, and second, they are not him.
God is making us into a kingdom, a lovely, peaceful one, lit by his love for us flowing toward one another. That’s the best gift you have to give.
If you’re called to speak light into the darkness, then believe this: the darkness wants to shut you up.
Over the years when life started really beating me up and I was forced to dig deeper than opinions and work harder than panning Scripture for gold nuggets that might make a good song, I began to understand the peril of asking God to let you write songs that would comfort the lonely and brokenhearted—peril, because the only way to do that is to walk through the dark forest of loneliness and heartbreak.
When you cast all mystery out the window because you want to make a point, you’re in essence declaring yourself the master and not the servant. Be humble. The creative act is profoundly spiritual, and therefore profoundly mysterious.
Sometimes you have to do the work even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you have put away your wants and do what needs to be done, which really means dying to self in order to find life. This is another way of practicing resurrection.
We must remember that a story may glow like a nightlight in a scary bedroom. It may be the only thing holding back the monsters. It may be the only beautiful, true thing that makes it through all the ugliness of a little girl’s world to rest in her secret heart.
That’s community. They look you in the eye and remind you who you are in Christ. They reiterate your calling when you forget what it is. They step into the garden and help you weed it, help you to grow something beautiful.
The community you’ve been given is the one you have to learn to love.
American evangelical theologian, ethicist, and preacher