It’s Not Fair!

Finding and maintaining creative work is many things, but one thing it definitely isn’t is fair.

Because creative work depends on an audience to be successful, there are a tremendous number of factors that go into its success that are simply beyond our control. Audiences are fickle beasts, and they are drawn to things that artists can try to emulate or circumvent, but when it comes down to it, the following things are going to give some artists an advantage over the rest of us. I believe it’s best to acknowledge these things up front and not allow the unfairness of the world to interrupt our quest to make the best creative work we can.

A non-exhaustive list of unfair advantages:

Good looks

We’d all love to believe that every artist is given a fair shake, despite the physical features we were given at birth. However, nature and social cues have programmed us, as humans, to pay more attention to the attractive folks in our midst. While good looks will never compensate for hard work and talent, they can definitely grab the attention of an audience, who may come back to take a gander at an artist who is, by virtue of their appearance, worth a second look (or third, or fourth).


You can’t outright buy an audience, but money affords a creative person a tremendous advantage that most starving artists can’t match. From allowing one the time to focus on creative pursuits instead of working several jobs to buying the materials necessary to create works to advertising and promotion, those with money, whether earned, won, or inherited, are going to afford a lot more attempts at creative success than working stiffs.


We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That continues to be true, especially for work in any creative field. Getting a foot in the door with those who have an audience, can help build an audience, or connect us with the tools and people necessary to find an audience is worth more than years of hard work could gain on our own. Many creative people find their connections through their art, but there are those with connections based on family, friendships, school connections or even walking their dogs in the same neighborhood as the powerful and influential, and it will definitely create an advantage.


In any creative field, timing is everything. Being the first to try out a new idea often means that you will be the first (or only) artist known for that type of work. Sometimes, the world isn’t quite ready for a creative idea, only to embrace it fully years later (superhero movies were attempted many times in the 1970s, for instance). Being at the right place at the right time is often something nobody can anticipate, and lucking into an idea that resonates with the zeitgeist at just the right time can propel an artist to success that others working in a similar vein will simply not enjoy.

While it can be disheartening to think that hard work, talent, and our own personal awesomeness will most likely not mean as much as those things that help others by default, acknowledging the fact that unfair advantages exist can save artists a lot of heartache. No, the creative world (or the world at large) isn’t fair, but it’s also not impossible to bypass all these advantages or to find some of your own that you can exploit and find success.

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