why creativity matters

nerdconLast weekend, I attended the inaugural NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis. Over the course of the two-day event, I attended panels that featured writers (and performers!) that I admire, laughed until I wheezed, rekindled my love of experimental theater, accidentally joined a cult (#guacanati), and heard a lot of thoughts about why stories mattered. Each day opened and closed with a mainstage performance that included two special guests giving their own talk on the subject “Why Stories Matter,” which ranged from hilarious to heartfelt. Though it maybe goes without saying at a convention with “stories” in the name, I was struck by the phrasing of this topic. We weren’t asking if stories matter, but why, everyone operating on the assumption that they do which, unfortunately, is not a universal belief.

I went into the convention a little burned out and a little unsure. I was looking for inspiration, but I didn’t know what form it would take. Although I feel incredibly lucky every day that I get to make my living by writing, it definitely can affect my drive on my own projects. I’ve been in a space where, after a full day of writing at work, I really didn’t feel like writing more once I got home. But at the same time, I felt guilty and unfulfilled neglecting my passion projects.

The thing that I really took away from NerdCon is that it’s not just okay but necessary to be creative, even if it’s just for the sake of making something. Like a lot of Type A people, I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about my own creative work the same way I do about work: what’s the ROI on this? Is something even worth pursuing if I don’t think anyone else will ever read it? The answer won’t always be yes, but for now, sure. Why not?

Unlike some conventions, I wasn’t live-tweeting much of the event. I was actively listening. In fact, the only direct quote I posted, because it struck me so deeply, was from Sarah Mackey of NaNoWriMo. In her “Why Stories Matter” talk, she said, “It’s okay, it’s great, it’s important to make your creative self a priority.” When was the last time you made creativity a priority? When was the last time you treated your creative self like the most important facet of you, instead of one that all too easily gets pushed aside in service of louder, needier aspects? It can feel selfish to give your creative self priority, and it meant a lot to me to hear an external voice telling me it was important. That it was okay.

Creativity matters to me. It’s something that propels me forward, brightens my day, warms my heart. It’s a way for me to communicate things I might not otherwise say. And I shouldn’t let myself forget that so easily.

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