There is one absolute and inalienable fact about creativity; your success as a creator is 100% dependent on how good you are.
I say this as a pre-cursor to talking about one of the most pernicious problems creators are faced with. Being asked to work for free.
The shady types who make these requests rarely phrase it this way. Instead, like Juan Luis Garcia, who provided concepts for Spike Lee’s new Oldboy movie for free, you’re asked to work in exchange for “exposure”.
There is no such thing as “exposure”. if you believe there is, as many creators and artists of all kinds clearly do, it means you are operating on a faulty paradigm. And the cause of that fault is not understanding the opening statement of this blog.
Your success as a creator is 100% dependent on how good you are.
The entire concept of exposure is built on the denial of this fact. On the assumption that your writing, or artwork, or music, or app, is already good enough. And that the only reason it hasn’t rocketed to the lofty heights of success we all dream of is that it hasn’t had the right “exposure”.
It is so much easier to believe this. Because as long as you can keep telling yourself that “exposure” is the problem, you can duck the hard truth. You aren’t good enough. Not yet. And the only way to change that are the hours of hard work and toil it takes to get good at any creative discipline.
So much easier instead to focus on “exposure”. So much easier to blame nepotism in your industry, or a lack of money and time, or any of the forms of self delusion creators place between themselves and that absolute and inalienable truth: your success as a creator is 100% dependent on how good you are.
If anyone ever asks you to create in exchange for “exposure”, say no. Don’t explain yourself or bother negotiating. If they come back with an offer worth the value of your creation, then OK. Otherwise don’t waste your time. Instead, get back to your studio or desk or wherever it is you do the hard work of creating, and get better.