Did anyone else see that awesome Wil Weaton video that’s been making the rounds on Facbeook? It’s really cool. For those who missed it, in response to a new mother who asked if he had any words of advice for her infant daughter, Mr. Weaton proceeded to deliver an impassioned speech about what it means to be a nerd, how nerds are simply people who love things that they’re not “supposed” to love and love them passionately. It was inspiring, especially for those of us who have been nerds their whole lives.
That’s not the only nerd video that’s been making the rounds lately though. There’s that awesome speech by Patrick Stewart—nerd royalty—about the importance of combating domestic abuse and PTSD. On a less serious note, there’s the astounding “Cups” song and video made by Kurt Hugo Schneider and his friends that features them singing a beautiful a capella song while playing that cups game that I learned at summer camp. In the meantime, George Takei is a hit on Facebook and I know I enjoy reading Simon Pegg’s (who’s recent autobiography is entitled Nerd Do Well) tweets.
The writing is on the wall, my friends. Nerds are the future. In fact, I started reading this fascinating book called The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, by Alexandra Robbins, which is basically a collection of case studies showing that those who are considered nerds and marginalized in school actually succeed much more and more often than those who are considered the popular kids after school.
Creativity has always been important, don’t get me wrong. A certain spark and ability to innovate has always been the first step on the path to greatness. The great minds of the last two hundred and more years, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and the like were, I’m sure, nerds in their own right.
But for every brilliant idea, you needed The System. You needed industry, men in suits, schmoozers and moneybags. You needed someone with power in order to push your ideas through. Up until just about the dawn of the 21st century, every creative person had to go through someone with clout in order to have their voices heard. And who were those clouts? The strong ones. The ones who were able to charm a room full of investors. The ones who beat you up and took your lunch money in the cafeteria.
Then came the Indie Revolution. It started in the music industry. Suddenly, what you really needed to be successful was creativity and talent. If you could write a good song and sing it well, you could distribute it to the world yourself. The same is happening right now in the book world. I’m just one of a growing multitude of writers who has found success not by working my way through the traditional channels of the publishing industry, but by doing it myself. The same thing is beginning to happen in the television world too thanks to YouTube, Vimeo, and other places I haven’t heard of yet, and independent production teams for hire. Yes, there are folks out there making good money with online video content. Like our buddy Kurt Schneider and his cups-playing, a capella-singing friends, for example.
Which brings me back to creativity and Wil Weaton’s message. Nerds are people who love something so passionately that they are willing to travel thousands of miles, shell out thousands of dollars, and spend thousands of hours working on minutiae. Guess what it takes to succeed in the post-Indie Revolution world? A willingness to dedicate thousands of hours, invest thousands of dollars, and travel thousands of miles for the craft that you love.
The tools of production and distribution have been made accessible to anyone and everyone. You don’t necessarily need a moneybags or a schmoozer to put your ideas into action. Tens of thousands of freelance editors, designers, production specialists, and cameramen have jumped forward to offer their services to the creators. But these enterprising freelancers are fueled by their own nerdy loves and creativity too. We’ve all cut out the middlemen and are now communicating directly with each other.
So what we’ve seen at the dawn of the 21st century is a gigantic inversion of the process of making dreams a reality. For the first time in a long time—or maybe ever—it’s the dreamers that hold the keys to success, not the facilitators. We are our own facilitators. The same people who spent high school lunches hunched over a table by themselves or with a few friends sketching maps to fantasy worlds instead of showing off with the jocks are the ones who are making money selling their indie video games (in yet another emerging indie market). The girl who was always picked last for every team in every game throughout her entire school career now has over 1600 fans on Facebook with more “liking” her each week (that’s me, btw).
I think we’ve only seen the beginning of this trend. Going forward, I predict we’re going to see those nerds in love with their ideas reaching the highest levels of success. Because the fact of the matter is, nowadays you have to try harder than ever to be successful. The stats about young people running into trouble finding jobs out of college and older folks being laid off and being unable to find work are staggering. Those who are unable to create, unable to dream, who have thus far relied on their strength and relative power to take them places, are having a hard, hard time. I foresee it getting worse for the couch-potato-ly inclined as the century goes on because I believe the impetus for creation is spreading out, going grass-roots. We’re all going to need to dig down and find that nerdy love if we’re going to be able to eat going forward.
So it’s true. The kid that gets stuffed in the locker by the meathead jock in high school is going to end up as that meathead’s boss someday. More than that, the loner artist who was picked on by the mean girls is going to be the New York Times bestseller through her self-publishing efforts. That’s me again—at least if I have anything to say about it. But that’s the point. I do have something to say about it. In fact, I’m the only one who can say that. My passion for writing is what’s going to make me in the end, not my ability to schmooze with a publisher to the point where they’re convinced I’m worth investing in. I think I’m worth investing in, because I’m invested. So are a lot of us nerds out there in the world.
Yep, creativity born from an innate nerdiness. That’s the currency of the 21st century. We’re the ones who are going to make it.