Keys To Success

Why Atlanta Is The Worst Place To Live As A Creative

The GIF above is rare footage of me in my apartment on my last day in Atlanta. It’s been over a month since that day and the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner. When I was 8, my mother drove me and my siblings down from NY. Pregnant with one and 3 in the back, Mommy’s 15-hour drive was enough to convince me that Atlanta was worth it. Once we arrived, East Atlanta became home for the next decade – or until I got accepted into Howard U. After graduation, I gladly returned back home and earned my spot on the creative scene as a journalist. Thanks to ATL, I was able to cover some of the most talked about events and interview some of your favorite celebrities very early in my career. But the more years I got under my belt, the more I realized that Atlanta was no place to create magic.

Here’s Why Atlanta Is The Worst Place To Live If You’re A Creative

Attention is more valuable than talent

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that easy to make it if you’re talented. A lot of talented people move to Atlanta because it seems like it’s easy to get on. If you do ever get on, talent will be 10% of the reason why. As a journalist, I was able to meet and even befriend so many talented people. While I commend them for not giving up on their dreams, I know it becomes a little discouraging to see the people who put in a lot less than 10,000 hours get on a lot earlier simply because they’ve mastered getting attention. But that leads me to my next point:

Creatives in Atlanta don’t understand what being “on” actually means.

Because it’s so easy to get a few credits under your belt, a lot of creatives think they’ve already made it. From the outside looking in, you’d think your follower from Atlanta is really doing his/her thing. Although that might be the case, they’re probably also lost in the hype of people gassing them for their accomplishments early in their careers. Once a creative snags one celebrity, they become a “celebrity photographer” or “celebrity hairstylist” yet still behind on bills. As a journalist, it was nothing for me to get celebrity interviews because all I had to do was look and sound like I knew what I was talking about. My first interview ever was Kash Doll and I didn’t even have a camera or a mic – all I had was an iPhone. It took me all of 10 months to interview every celeb on the site; no one could tell I was a rookie. After Amber Rose I basically said, “Okay, what’s next?” Because the attention was there but the perks weren’t adding up.

People are trying to figure out how they can use you, not support you.

Any Atlanta creative will gladly warn you, “there are no friends in this!” I have 5 creative friends in Atlanta: 2 I’ve known since HS, 1 who taught me photography and the last two came as a 2 for 1 because they’re brothers. There are way too many creatives on the scene trying to create the same things. Of course people feel like they have to compete with you or use you to advance their career. Once they realize both of you are still figuring it out, they’ll either become your real friend or try to use the next person. There’s a reason I only made 3 real friends in 3 years.

A lot of creatives didn’t have a choice.

Most Atlanta creatives are “entrepreneurs” by force. Job growth has dropped significantly and is expected to continue. Unless you’re in tech or education, Atlanta’s job market probably isn’t working in your favor right now. But my favorite thing about Atlanta has always been that we know how to hustle. If no one wants to hire us, we’ll go out and create a job. But the downside of that is that you’ll start doing things you don’t have a real passion for. If you’re forced to do something you weren’t born to do, how will you have the desire to make a real impact? There’s very little inspiration on the scene because most creatives are just doing what seems to be working for others.

Who feels like creating when they can’t find a place to live?

Let’s be clear: there’s Atlanta then there’s Georgia. Just about every event worth talking about is in the middle of the city. However, most creatives don’t live in the city because they can’t afford any of the new condos, lofts or luxury apartments. As of 2018, the average apartment in Atlanta will cost you $1600. If the job market is weak and you’re not making any real money creating, where are you getting $1600 from for rent alone? The area I lived in also played a HUGE part in my success. I was blessed but your average photographer, rapper, model, etc. probably doesn’t have that same luxury. Most are either trying to look the part and struggling in the city or stressing about not being able to afford anything other than their childhood bedroom.

Atlanta is simply way too small for creatives to flourish.

I mean this in two ways: 1) the creative scene is one big social club. Once certain people know you, you’ve pretty much made a name for yourself on the scene but that’s usually as far as it goes. 2) Essentially, the creative scene is an area IN the city and not the entire city. Unlike other major cities like NY or L.A, Atlanta doesn’t offer the same tools and opportunities for you to grow beyond a certain point. Small things like not having an efficient public transportation system can hinder a creative’s ability to reach his/her potential. Georgia JUST approved a contract to expand transit services to their second largest county. You mean to tell me that 900K+ people have no choice but to drive to the city? Have you seen Atlanta’s traffic? I was able to take the risk of not getting in; it was a 6-8 min Uber ride home. However, because most creatives live outside of the city, things can start to get expensive.

To sum it all up, Atlanta is great for building your foundation but if you ever get the opportunity to move on then you should consider taking that leap. Aside from the clout chasing and getting lost in the hype, it’s important that we have the basic tools to do what we do best – create. I took an entire year and a half off because I was stressed and uninspired; as soon as I moved to a new city, I found the inspiration to create fresh content. But then again, I’m from East Atlanta and the magic has always been in us no matter where we reside.

Thanks for reading!

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    December 18, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    I love it! Thank you for you for your transparency! Alot of people I know think moving to Atlanta is the answer to all of our problems because of what’s advertised on social media, movies, TV, etc. I appreciate you showing us the cons as well as the pros.

  2. Reply
    December 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    This is the read!

  3. Reply
    December 20, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Any city suggesstions?

  4. Reply
    December 20, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    As a member of this independent media family I believe you are spot on.

    We all have aspirations of getting it & making a name for ourselves. Atlanta is definitely a market where you can get the opportunity but what’s after.

    This is a true grind & not many can withstand it. You must define “Put On” as everyone has their own definition. But the mainstream media outlets are not going to give you the opportunity to work for them as you are not respected in their world.

    Rising costs for housing, can hurt a person who really wants to do this. You need a support system.

    This is a cut throat business as there is no synergy amongst this media/blogger community. The 90s Atlanta rap community came together & won why can’t we? Hatred, jealousy, crab in the barrel mentality to name a few.

    To be a creative in Atlanta is really a passion but getting a check you might as well cancel that until everyone understands we need each other.

    I personally have been in this grind as a creative for over a decade. I was here before youtube started & I can honestly say most people want to be seen & dont want to do the work. They dont invest in themselves or their craft.

    This new generation sees a mainstream outlet & says hey I want to do that but won’t put in the back end work. The interview was the easy part which I disagreed in my early years but have found to be true as of recently.

    This fake society of I interviewed ABC I’m an official celebrity interviewer or whatever you call yourself no your not. You can’t do 1 or 2 & say I’m this no one knows you.

    You have to be a trusted brand. Unfortunately, that’s where the mistake is made.

    Good article & I wish we would have crossed paths (maybe we did) & been able to assist one another.

    I will say this if your going to do this you must be all in, create partnerships, & do the work not part time but full time.

  5. Reply
    December 22, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Where did you end up moving? My same sentiments and consideration plan for 2019.

  6. Reply
    December 22, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I moved from Jacksonville to Atlanta (although I grew up in Zone 4) and was appalled at the cost of living 😭 even for what is and used to be the hood. As a creative I completely agree with having to make a job because if it’s not tech, medical or education, Atlanta is a war zone full of fake friends and Love and Hip Hop episodes

  7. Reply
    December 22, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    This was great! I lived in ATL for a few years and a lot of my homies didn’t believe when I would say “don’t believe the hype”. As you so eloquently said, use the time there to build, and move one when you’re done!!

  8. Reply
    December 23, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    This is exactly how I feel about Los Angeles! I guess this is with every major city that produces creative content because L.A. is 200% no better. Cost of living.. Attention.. All of it. Great article!

  9. Reply
    December 24, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    I love this!! You were spot on!

  10. Reply
    January 25, 2019 at 10:51 am

    This is really on point. I’ve always gathered this from the outside lookin in: basically (and no shade to the ATL) but I never really bought the hype. I think all this applies to numerous places including New York, L.A., Chicago. This is why it’s important to have a main gig, hustle, and network with people OUTSIDE of your city too. I’m a Chicagoan and the scene here is super clique-ish. Call me Sweet Brown, ‘cause I ain’t got time for that. Most of my customers for my online shops and supporters are from people out of state and I’m fine with that. I get it from my city too, but I’m definitely down with being as diverse as possible. I really enjoyed reading this!

  11. Reply
    September 18, 2019 at 8:22 am

    i am SO GLAD i stumbled across this. I am currently decompressing my mind on a sabbatical in France and this has been weighing so much on my mind (being a creative in atlanta) and how much of it really means much of nothing and how the essence of creativity really has been lost in me and the city has made me more of a brick because i’ve been burned so much by the takers and users.. seeing this article, in this timing was by no means a coincidence.. thanks for writing it and further solidifying the thoughts that I’m feeling!

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