That includes teaching workshops, speaking at events, writing, coaching, and hosting the Wind Thieved Hat podcast. Now his first book is available for pre-order, and it covers a topic close to the heart of every creative person.
Creative Demons & How to Slay Them focuses on ten demons that often bother creative people. These are the demons of procrastination, the blank page, doubt, convention, limitations, criticism, theft, accident, failure, and disappointment.
To give you a taste of what the book has to offer, we spoke to Richard and had him share some tips on overcoming our creative demons.
1. Know you are not alone
Richard believes that the starting point for overcoming your creative demons is to recognize that you are not alone. While other creatives paint their lives and careers on social media as perfect, in reality things are very different. “No creative person, no matter how successful he has become, is without his own demons,” he insists. “Every great work of art is a destination on a long and winding road of heartbreak and self-doubt.”
For example, one of the most revered artists in all of history is Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance. Still, Richard points out that “when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of the greatest works of art of all time, he wrote to a friend, ‘My painting is dead. I’m not in the right place. I am not a painter.'”
2. Don’t get caught up in denial
While we all suffer from creative demons, we usually just brush them under the rug. That attitude, however, holds us back. “I think creativity is one of the greatest qualities we humans possess,” says Richard. “Yet from the work I do as a coach and mentor, I know that all too often people’s creative impulses are stifled by fear, doubt, procrastination and the rest.”
When problems seem too big to solve, it’s normal for us as humans to just push them to the back of our minds and ignore them. But that’s the way the madness lies, Richard believes. “I think if you deny your demons or try to fight through regardless of them, you are doomed to fail,” he says. “The first step to overcoming them is to accept them, to know that they will always be lurking, and to find a way to work with them. Which, of course, I explore in the book.”
He adds, “Perhaps one of the book’s most surprising conclusions – at least to me – is that, if you react in the right way, sometimes your demons can take you to a much more interesting place than you could. must have without them.”
The longer you leave your creative demons unchecked, the bigger they grow. But no matter how grotesque and hairy your demons seem, they can be overcome.
3. We are not born with demons: they are learned
Although we all suffer from creative demons, Richard notes that we are not born with them. “Children, especially preschool children, are usually unaffected and can be endlessly creative,” he notes. “But as we age, we build up our own mischievous gang of mind-forged monsters that try to derail our creative endeavors at every opportunity.”
However, this pattern can be reversed, Richard says, and the sooner you do that, the better. “The longer you leave your creative demons unchecked, the bigger they get,” he says. “God only knows how many brilliant novels, poems and movies, even artistic careers, have been lost to the Demon of Procrastination alone. But no matter how grotesque and hairy your demons seem, they can be overcome.”
4. You can make deals with demons
The language of “demon killing” implies a binary battle between good and evil. But Richard also explores the possibility of making deals with demons and illustrates this through the Demon of Doubt.
“This is the demon lurking in the wings, watching you closely, waiting for you to start,” he explains. Then, once you’re on the road, it jumps on your shoulder and barracks you asking if your job is okay. Or worse, if you’re good.”
But we shouldn’t dismiss doubt just like that, Richard adds. “The most important thing to recognize about this demon is, even though it doesn’t look like it at the time, its presence is really a… Good sign. If you can see the flaws in your work, it means you have the critical judgment you need to make something great. As the writer, Anne Enright, said, ‘Only bad writers think their writing is good’.”
It is, of course, easy to take this attitude too far. “The danger is that the Demon of Doubt becomes so shrill that it prevents you from completing a project,” says Richard. “So I encourage readers to make a deal with this demon: banish him from the studio or the writing room until the first draft of the work is done, then let him back in to reflect the decisions you’ve made. challenge, but only under strict conditions.”
5. How to defeat the Demon of Convention?
Richard gives another example of how to intelligently deal with your creative demons. “The Demon of Convention always prefers you to take the more traveled path, limiting your creativity and forcing you to repeat yourself,” he explains. To defeat this demon, Richard suggests asking yourself a question that artist Peter Schmidt asked his friend Brian Eno: “What if you don’t do the things no one ever thought they wouldn’t?”
A few examples illustrate the point. “Before Marcel Duchamp installed a urinal in a gallery and rang the bell for the modern art era, it was thought that all artworks had to be created by the artist’s hand,” notes Richard. “Likewise, before James Joyce wrote Ulysses, it was believed that novels had to abide by the rules of grammar and syntax.”
Creative Demons & How to Slay Them, published by Thames & Hudson, features artwork by Al Murphy and will be released in the UK on 24 February. Pre-order your copy here.