I don't know about the artsy people you know, but mine are all concerned with how to do things that matter more, whether that's the word they use or not. How to get through to people who don't already agree with you, how to make sure your work isn't part of the problem, how to give opportunities to those who lack them without appropriating or misrepresenting their stories (some of this may be theatre-specific, but I think the concepts are more general).
(I think the first one is the hardest; art can be an effective tool for empathy, but audiences get awfully insular. We do get a lot of old people seeing theatre made by young people, but it's hard to get outside the regular theatre people. And that can be true in other fields, too. Although in my sf/f/h short fiction days, as limited as the audience could be, I think it has a lot more political and ideological diversity than theatre.)
What I'm thinking right now is that while preaching to the choir isn't particularly productive, there is value in creating things that might contribute to the self-care of people already in your community or on your side. And it's also hard to predict what that might be. Probably when Aimee Mann wrote "Red Vines," she didn't know it was going to become symbolic of one 20-something's self-care. On the surface, it doesn't particularly seem like a song that Says Something Important, necessarily. And representation to wide audiences with diverse perspectives is the most helpful empathy-wise, but it's also super-valuable for the people for whom it's not even empathy to see that representation. So maybe preaching to the choir is an overly dismissive way of looking at it. Maybe it's not self-indulgent to sometimes want to create an artistic support group.
Or THE ALIENS. Or Pokemon Snap. Like, if I could just devote my life to THE ALIENS, Firefly, and Pokemon Snap, that sounds like the best life ever. And, like, Spider & Web. Obviously this list could become extremely long. And I roll my eyes when people talk about probable-queerbaiting Youtubers saving their lives or whatever. Maybe I'm saying that mattering is overrated, or just that it doesn't make any sense.
I don't know. I'm not sure I've ever been one to write about Issues in some kind of Important way. And I've never really minded that before. But the world now isn't what it was then, and now writing a self-indulgent play about self-indulgence seems extra self-indulgent and maybe only justifiable if I were to actually quit my job and work for some saving-the-world type of group (yes, I know I work to make higher education more accessible to nontraditional students, thanks Mom!). So should I write the SLJ one if only because it would have lead roles that necessitate casting women of color? Should I come up with an idea that Matters more than the ones I have? Should I stop trying to get back into the headspace where I was going to start writing again and accept that the kind of fighting that also means not taking much time to avoid the despairs of reality is actually what I should be doing for the next 4 years or more (this necessitates believing in my ability to make a difference, so...)?
(Jonatha Brooke, "It Matters Now")
I know, this is totally self-indulgent in itself. But I think that's often part of the process.