Book Review: Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark is an artists’ retreat captured in book form. That’s the simplest and truest way I can describe its impact on me.

Adorning the Dark is part-memoir of Peterson’s artistic journey and personal life, part-spiritual reminders for creative souls, part-guidebook for artists. The book isn’t just for your typical “creatives”—writers, musicians, etc.—but for all those who create, which Peterson argues is every single person since we are all made to emulate our Creator God. Though he does focus primarily on songwriting and novel-writing (his own artforms), his comments are broad enough to apply to any creative act, from painting to gardening to anything else under the sun.

Peterson’s personal stories, especially those of his struggles as an artist, encouraged me, and I think they would be encouraging for any who might read them. As an artist, I can relate to the daily battles he faces as a musician. Writing can be just as difficult a profession to break into, and the fight against self-doubt is a very real and constant issue.

I also appreciated how each story and point he made beautifully and naturally brought Creatives’ work back to the Gospel. His reminders of the spiritual purpose behind what we do as creators was well-timed for me. I too often get caught up in the grandiose visions of being a famous writer and publishing amazing stories that perhaps border on escapism. But Peterson reminded me that my writing isn’t about me. It’s about Christ. It’s about others. God gave me this gift, gave me stories, to use for Him—not for me.

Each memoir held gems I could relate to. I’m not sure if that’s simply because I’m a Christian and a Creative, or because I share Peterson’s longing for home, but nonetheless, the whole book felt like having a personal conversation with him. Authenticity and vulnerability are present on each page. I walked away from each chapter freshly inspired, uplifted, and feeling less alone in my writing work.

From the first chapter, I knew this book would touch me and move me. As a Christian, Peterson’s words drove me to worship and delight and marvel at the God who created me and called me to create. As a writer, I found myself reminded of the purpose behind my fantasy writing, and even felt convicted as I realized part of my current struggle to figure out what to write is partly due to me prioritizing the temporary adventure over eternal truths in my storytelling. As a person, I felt moved and empowered to keep fighting for community and keep fighting for my art, my writing.

Reading Adorning the Dark came at the perfect time, too. I read it between Christmas and the first week of the new year, roughly around the same time as my writing groups’ winter retreat. It wasn’t as emotional for me to miss it this year—I had known for several months that going wouldn’t be an option this time around—but I still longed to be there, to reconnect with my writing friends, to be newly inspired heading into a new year of creating and battling against insecurity. This book provided the same sort of inspiration I usually get at that conference. And, though written word can’t replace the need for community or the fulfillment of friends, it did give me a taste of fellowship, merely by reminding me of the value of community in the artistic process and making me feel less alone in the world. That’s why I describe Peterson’s book as a writing retreat in written form.

All in all, Peterson’s Adorning the Dark is a phenomenal read, especially if you are a creative soul or an artist. I had the honor of hearing Peterson speak at a similar writing conference back in 2018, and as he was in the process of finishing this book, he actually shared some of the stories and insights from it as a part of his conference. Yet even with the familiarity, I couldn’t help but be encouraged and inspired, even at the parts I knew. If you’re looking for solace, for a reminder of the important things in life, or for a reminder of the Gospel’s role in creative acts, turn to Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark.