"For artists in need of a creative fix, Light the Dark is as good as a visit from the divine muse." -Bookpage
What inspires you? That's the simple, but profound question posed to forty-six renowned authors in LIGHT THE DARK. Each writer begins with a favorite passage from a novel, a song, a poem—something that gets them started and keeps them going with the creative work they love. From there, incredible lessons and stories of life-changing encounters with art emerge, like how sneaking books into his job as a night security guard helped Khaled Hosseini learn that nothing he creates will ever be truly finished. Or how a college reading assignment taught Junot Díaz that great art can be a healing conversation, and an unexpected poet led Elizabeth Gilbert to embrace an unyielding optimism, even in the face of darkness. LIGHT THE DARK collects the best of The Atlantic's much-acclaimed "By Heart" series edited by Joe Fassler and adds brand new pieces, each one paired with a striking illustration. Here is a guide to creative living and writing in the vein of Daily Rituals, Bird by Bird, Draft No. 4, and Big Magic for anyone who wants to learn how great writers find inspiration—and to find some of your own.
CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS: Elizabeth Gilbert, Junot Díaz, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Mary Gaitskill, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Roxane Gay, Angela Flournoy, Jonathan Franzen, Yiyun Li, Leslie Jamison, Claire Messud, Edwidge Danticat, David Mitchell, Khaled Hosseini, Ayana Mathis, Kathryn Harrison, Azar Nafisi, Hanya Yanagihara, Jane Smiley, Nell Zink, Emma Donoghue, Jeff Tweedy, Eileen Myles, Maggie Shipstead, Sherman Alexie, Andre Dubus III, Billy Collins, Lev Grossman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Charles Simic, Jim Shepard, T.C. Boyle, Tom Perrotta, Viet Thanh Nguyen, William Gibson, Mark Haddon, Ethan Canin, Jesse Ball, Jim Crace, and Walter Mosley.
"As [these authors] reveal what inspires them, they, in turn, inspire the reader, all while celebrating the beauty and purpose of art." -Booklist
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About the Author
Doug McLean (Illustrator) is an artist and illustrator based in the Boston area. He has an MFA in Visual Arts from Rutgers University and has been contributing drawings for the “By Heart” series since 2013.
Read an Excerpt
From Khaled Hosseini's "Everything I Meant to Say"
We fear we’ll be misunderstood—and, at times, we surely will be. The most powerful human emotions are terribly difficult to explain in a way that doesn’t diminish them, or that doesn’t make you look slightly ridiculous in the telling. How easy to safeguard them then, and keep things close, rather than risk looking foolish or being misheard.
But that’s what art is for—for both reader and writer to overcome their respective limitations and encounter something true. It seems miraculous, doesn’t it? That somebody can articulate something clearly and beautifully that exists inside you, something shrouded in impenetrable fog. Great art reaches through the fog, toward this secret heart—and it shows it to you, holds it before you. It’s a revelatory, incredibly moving experience when this happens. You feel understood. You feel heard. That’s why we come to art—we feel less alone. We are less alone. You see, through art, that others have felt the way you have—and you feel better.
I began writing at a very young age. From the time I could pick up a pen. I loved the idea of trying to speak what’s inside of me—of creating things that felt real to me. And I’ve kept writing my whole life, kept developing and deepening this compulsion I was born with. At the same time, it’s an unbelievable honor and pleasure to know that someone has read my book. To receive an incredibly passionate letter explaining how something I wrote touched another person in an authentic way. What a gift to be on the receiving end of that. There’s no greater reward, as a writer, than that.