Friday, September 11, 2020

Simplify Your Streaming Problems


When faced with problems on our streams, it's easy to feel trapped. There are a thousand variables which could be causing things to go wrong at any turn, and we typically put so much work into simply getting our content made that we don't really allot any time to puzzle out the solutions. Instead, we make quick fixes in the moment and write off the underlying problems as things which can't be helped. This is almost never true true. Most problems can be solved, and without buying anything to do so, if you only change your perception of those problems. 

Open your mind.

Truly opening your mind to potential solutions isn't as easy as it sounds, however. This requires you to set aside your ego and all preconceptions about your channel's content. It requires a clearing of the mental cache and a return to absolute basics. You want to reconnect with what's actually important about the area you're focusing on, and then build back up from there. This is typically referred to as working from 'First Principles' in the science community, but the same discipline is used by successful people in all creative and commercial fields. Typically, when we can't find a solution to something, it's only because we aren't going deep enough toward the core of the issue. Like sticking a piece of Scotch Tape to a leaking pipe, most of our solutions don't address the root of the problems we face. In this entry, I'll help you to simplify your streaming problems, in order to come up with true solutions to anything you might face. 


➢ EXPAND YOUR VIEW


How well are you able to break down your streaming problems right now? Let's try a little exercise. I'm going to present a few common scenarios that streamers face. Then I'll dive into the various avenues of thought you might want to travel down in order to reach a solution for each. If you'd like to actively participate while going through this section, take a moment to pause after a scenario is presented. Then think through all the possibilities which might be causing each problem. Once you've done this in your head or on a piece of paper, you can move forward. 

1. Your viewers complain that they can't hear you, or that you sound bad.  
This is a pretty common one, and audio is a very wide field to narrow down. Of course, the knee jerk reaction might be that you need a new microphone in order to sound better. But this would depend on several factors- have you always sounded this way, or is it only just starting to happen now? If it's a new occurrence, there's likely some variable recently introduced which is causing the problem. Maybe the game is mixed too loud and it's drowning you out, or the automatic settings on your computer are making your mic sound distorted. Possibly the issue is hardware related, and there's something wrong with the cable connecting your microphone to the PC. It could be a completely analog issue, like sitting too close to the mic, or too far away. It could even be something totally unrelated to you, like the viewer's internet connection. Any of these categories (and many more) might be the root of the issue, but you have to keep an open mind to find them. Even if your mic has always sounded bad, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad mic- it could be that you simply set it up incorrectly from the start. As I laid out in the earlier entries, The Best Microphone Setup for Streaming, and Optimize Your Stream Audio Without Buying a New Mic, there are several factors which might make your stream audio sound better or worse, sitting right under your nose. 



2.  A viewer mentions that your show is lagging.
Take a breath and explore the root of the issue.

When you're told that the stream is lagging, there are two obvious thoughts: either their internet is slow, or your internet is slow. There's a third factor however: maybe your computer has hit its limit for processing power, and is now dropping frames in your capture software. This last one isn't technically considered 'lag,' but don't forget that to the viewer it wouldn't look any different from an ordinary internet issue and they'd likely describe it as such. All this should be easy enough to narrow down, simply by utilizing the tools available to you. Does the stream lag when you watch it on your phone as well? If not, then it isn't something on your end causing the issue. If so, it could be either your internet connection or your computer. If you open Task Manager, does your CPU meter touch the top of the charts? Then your PC is likely starting to chug. Simple tests like this, which narrow your search fields, can help you to make informed fixes as quickly and painlessly as possible. As I mentioned in the entry Getting Your Stream Output Settings Just Right, keeping your show from dropping frames is a careful balancing act which shouldn't be underestimated.
 
3.  You keep missing your scheduled streams.
Typically when someone can't keep to their schedule, they quickly chalk it up to 'not having enough time.' But this is a very surface-level analysis. If you feel this way, it's more likely that you aren't managing your time properly (covered in the entry, How to Find the Time to Stream on Twitch), maybe you're trying to stream at the wrong times (discussed in the entry, Trick Yourself Into Being More Productive), or you're biting off more than you can chew (which I help with in the entry, Growth Check-In: Simplifying Your Streams). Saying you can't stream because you don't have enough time is like saying, "King Kong died because he stopped breathing." It may explain the issue on a surface level, but it completely ignores the actual cause. 


➢ BEING MORE CREATIVE


When you thought up your own possibilities for each of the three scenarios mentioned here, how did you do? Did you come up with the same ideas for where the culprit could lie? Make sure to keep your mind sharp and open to all possibilities. Of course, the process of breaking down problems isn't about having one catch-all solution, but rather cultivating the kind of brain that can dig its way down to any solution, no matter the problem. Streaming can be stressful and confusing, but as long as you stay calm and simplify your streaming problems, you'll find your way out of a jam every time.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Organizing Your Twitch Clips


By now you've likely discovered the wonders of Twitch clips. These useful features allow you to capture portions of your streams, and redistribute those small snippets in all sorts of ways. As I mentioned in previous entries, clips can help new viewers find your channel, they can be shared to social platforms to expand your reach, and they can be saved to speed up the editing of your compilation videos or channel trailer. I've discussed the myriad specific uses of this feature in the entry Using Twitch Clips to Their Fullest, and I spoke about how to efficiently capture them yourself in the entry Clipping and Highlighting Your Streams, but there's a third side to clips I'd like to cover. 

After you and your chat have been capturing great stream moments for a while, you're going be sitting on a huge stockpile of this bite-sized content. But what if you want to grab a specific one for future usage? At a certain point, organizing all the content that's been created becomes a real necessity. Most streamers fail to keep proper tabs on their clips, and in doing so miss out on incredible opportunities. These memories simply become lost in the pile, and thus go largely unused. In this entry, I'll help you to organize your clips so you can use them to create whatever you choose. 


➢ FINDING YOUR CLIPS


Let's say you're editing a YouTube video of your best plays in a certain game. As I mentioned in previous entries, clips are a great way to save the best moments you might want to utilize in videos like these, which you can then download for later use. But how will you wade through all your channel's clips in order to find the one you want? Sure, scrolling through them might work when you only have a few dozen captured overall, but what about when there are hundreds, or thousands of clips from your shows? My streams feature a 'clip reel' which plays while I'm away from the computer, displaying the best moments from my past shows. This reel is comprised of quick 20-second clips captured either by myself or my viewers, and when combined together it has a total length of over 3 HOURS. And those are just the clips of my channel I've deemed worth showing! Imagine if I wanted to go through all my channel's clips individually, just to find a specific one- it would be completely futile. But now when I need a clip, I'm typically able to grab it in seconds. This is because I've developed a system for finding the clips I need, and keeping track of which clips I think I'll need in the future. 

Make sure your clips can be found.

If you want to do the same, then you should first confirm that your clips are being named properly. This means making sure the name is concise, and applies to what's actually happening during the clip. Even if a clip is hilarious or thrilling, you'll never find it again six months from now if it just uses an identical title to all your other clips. Users watching a stream will often grab clips but forget to name them, and in those cases I recommend going back and remaking the clips yourself after the show is over. This will save you a huge amount of headache going forward. Of course, this expanded dedication to clip naming won't help any clips that have been made already, but it's never too late to start future proofing. The sooner you start enacting this strategy, the easier a time you'll have sourcing clips further into your channel's lifetime. 

But even once you've been doing this for a while and you have hundreds of well-named clips, that would still mean wading through a huge amount of content when you want to locate something specific! Isn't there any way to narrow down the field? Unfortunately as of this writing, Twitch doesn't have any way to search through your clips by title, which would have been the easiest solution. But there are several other methods which can help you find what you're looking for. In addition to the 'Clips' tab that viewers can see while looking at your profile, you also have access to a powerful tool behind the scenes called the 'Clips Dashboard.' When you're on this screen, you can check the box for 'Clips of My Channel' and it will show every single clip that you or your viewers have created from your streams. You can sort by views to find the most popular ones, or by date to see things in chronological order. Already, the functionality of these sorting options is greatly expanded over what normal viewers can do on your profile page. 

Most useful for a channel like mine is the 'Category' search bar on the right side, which will show only the clips taken while you were streaming a certain game or activity. Even though my channel has hundreds and hundreds of clips overall, because I play through so many singleplayer games, there are bound to be only a few dozen clips per game at the maximum. This feature significantly reduces the time it takes me to find any clips I need later. Of course, if you only stream one game exclusively, a narrowing field like this wouldn't be much help. In that case, there are some other measures you can take. 


➢ EXTERNAL SOLUTIONS


Sometimes paperwork is in order.

In addition to using the built-in Twitch tools to find my best clips, I also take matters into my own hands. Because I post clips on social media every day, use them to edit YouTube videos, and regularly add them to my stream software for the aforementioned clip reel, it's imperative that I keep track of my clips more specifically. Therefore, after every stream ends, I take stock of any clips created and add all their links to a Google Document. Along with the links to each clip, I add the date and name of the game I was playing. This allows me to vary the posts I make to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok so there aren't a bunch of clips of the same game being posted in a row. I then cross each one off after it's been used. This method has made me incredibly efficient about instantly finding any clips I need, and this increased production speed has in turn drastically boosted my social media presence. 

If you stream one game or activity exclusively, keeping a document like this will be your best chance to get more granular about your clips. For me, all I need to know is which game I was playing. If you play only Fortnite, you might want to organize clips into different categories like 'Funny,' 'Skill,' 'Luck,' Wins,' or whatever features are important for you to differentiate the various moments. This works the same way if you specialize in something that isn't video game-related, like painting model kits. You can organize clips in your tracking document by project, by series, by skill level, or any other criteria, even though Twitch's built-in tools would lump every model kit stream into one single category. Using a document like this effectively will require a bit of foresight on your part. What do you want to do with your clips, and what would be important to keep track of in order to best facilitate that goal? 


➢ IN YOUR HANDS


Twitch has some pretty useful tools for keeping track of your clips, but you should never rely solely on what you're given. If something you need doesn't exist, simply make it yourself. Clips have been a massive part of my channel for a long time now, and they've allowed me to introduce new people to my shows in so many ways. So take matters into your own hands and organize your Twitch clips to create something new and extraordinary! 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Trick Yourself into Being More Productive



Even if you've been streaming for a while, you might still have trouble reaching a level of true consistency. Maybe you can't get yourself to do the various prep tasks or post-show tweaks- those ones that are less exciting but oh so necessary for your channel's growth. Or you can't sit down to stream in the first place, constantly finding an excuse to do something else, or deciding at the last minute that you're too tired to go live. If you're really struggling to keep your creative priorities in line, you may be searching for a more effective productivity method than any of the ones I've covered in this resource so far. Don't worry, you're not alone. I've been in this situation as well, and I understand how frustrating it can be. Spurred on by this need, I found a way to force myself to work even when I don't feel like it. In this entry, I'll teach you how to trick yourself into being more productive. 

Please be aware, this method is not for everyone. I devised this strategy because I had no other choice- nothing else worked for me when the days got really tough. I suggest approaching something like this only if you've already tried every other productivity method I've laid out in the past 86 entries without success, and even then only in moderation. Don't push yourself to unsafe extremes. Only you know your limits, so keep them in mind while implementing the concepts I'm about to lay out here. 


➢ DELAYED GRATIFICATION


When you get down to it, what's the quintessential way to get anyone to do anything? You take a carrot, attach it to the end of a stick, and dangle that stick in front of the person in question. This is the classic description of any method of coercion- if the carrot on a stick is dangled well enough, they will try to chase after it. (I suppose whoever invented this concept didn't take into account people who don't like carrots, but that's beside the point.) In essence, all we have to do is find our own 'carrots' and dangle them behind whatever task we least want to accomplish that day. This might sound simple, but as you'll soon find out, this process can actually be quite harrowing. Are you committed enough to deny yourself the things you love most until your work is done? 

Photograph of me on a normal workday

For me, there isn't one specific thing I have trouble staying consistent about- it changes every day. As human beings, we're all predisposed to experience different moods. Some days I want to eat pizza, and on others I crave steak. Today I want to watch an action movie, but tomorrow I won't settle for anything other than a comedy. And on Tuesday I may be excited to go live but have a hard time creating stream graphics, while the exact opposite is true on Wednesday. It's a natural impulse- our brains try to fight against consistency in an attempt to create variety and excitement. Unfortunately, this aversion to structure has the side effect of crushing our creative aspirations. At the end of the day, if we want to be content creators, it doesn't matter what we're in the mood for. If it's a day when we're supposed to stream, we stream. And that's why the carrot is so important. 

Myself, I've always loved to eat. Because I've worked from home for roughly a decade, I'm faced with the curious problem that food is always available to me during the workday. Eventually I noticed that I was using eating as a form of procrastination. I'd not only snack on things throughout the day, but when it was time for a meal I would draw that meal out for as long as I could, watching TV shows and cleaning my plate at a snail's pace. This of course was dangerous not just to my efficiency, but also a hazard to my health, and I knew I had to do something about it. So now, I use that love of food to my advantage- I force myself not to break for lunch until I've done whatever I least feel like doing that day. Because I work at all hours, this applies to dinner as well. So on a given day, I won't eat until I've done my stream, written the podcast, recorded a video, or anything else I can feel myself wanting to slack about. On the health side, this teaches me not to simply stuff my face whenever I'm up against a problem, which is a huge win in itself. And on the productivity side, the food I love eating is now a reward that I earn, not just something I do to escape responsibility. 


➢ MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS


You may recognize that this method is based on a concept I described in earlier entries, called The Eisenhower Decision Matrix. You can learn more about this principle in the entry Making Twitch a Part of Your Life, but the main idea posed by this method is that there are two types of problems you'll face on a daily basis: those that are urgent (work deadlines, chores, anything that doesn't further our ultimate goals), and those that are important (your creative aspirations like Twitch streaming). In order to use this method correctly, you must always address the important problems first

Sometimes you have to get tricksy.
It may seem like the same amount of problems can be solved in any order, but this doesn't apply in practice. Whichever tasks you complete first will always be unburdened by the stress and fatigue accumulated throughout the day. If you do your stream, or create graphics, or whatever task you least want to do first, then you'll still find a way to solve all the urgent tasks afterward. If those tasks are truly that urgent then there'll be no other choice- you'll simply have to find a way to solve them. But if you shop for groceries, go to work, come home, go to the bank, answer emails, and do all your other urgent tasks before streaming, you may just find at the end of the day that you're too tired to go live at all. Since streaming doesn't feel 'urgent,' we usually don't fight as hard to make it happen when it's not convenient for us. Most people spend their whole lives treading water, completing their most urgent tasks and never figuring out why their life goals seem to be slipping away. It's a vicious cycle. 


➢ FIND YOUR CARROT


So you know the strategy and you know the logic behind it. Now you just have to find the right motivation to make this method most effective in your own life. You need to find your 'carrot.' For me, holding off on meals is the perfect motivator. For you, it could be something completely different. Maybe you often find yourself binging on Netflix. What if you were only able to watch Netflix after you've finished streaming for the day? Maybe you love running, shopping, or going on long relaxing drives. What if one of these was the motivator that could make you spring into action? Turn your favorite idle activity into a reward for fulfilling your dreams each day, and see how much more work you get done! Sometimes you just need to trick yourself into being more productive.  

Friday, August 21, 2020

Stream with Strategic Ignorance



We often feel a lot of pressure when making our Twitch channels. Not only in setting them up, but throughout the process of trying to build our brands. "There are so many other people out there doing the same thing- what if I'm not growing as fast, why can't I produce as much content as them, and for that matter, who am I to think I should be asking people to watch me in the first place?" These are very common questions among new streamers, but in truth we're all susceptible to these moments of self-consciousness. And as many of us have learned the hard way, this line of thinking can lead your channel down a path of destruction.

There's no way to get rid of this nagging feeling entirely, as it's a natural part of the human experience. But it is possible to give these self-doubts much less hold over your streaming life. I call this method 'streaming with strategic ignorance.' When you stream with strategic ignorance, you carefully control the amount of outside influences that reach you, and in doing so create an environment free of as many harmful comparisons as possible. When I started streaming this way, suddenly I was no longer a small fish swimming around in a big scary pond, I was just a fish that swam because swimming was what I liked to do- I couldn't care less about what the pond looked like. 


➢ AVOID INFLUENCES


The largest component in creating a healthier environment for streaming is to avoid comparisons. This can be broken down into two separate steps: First, eliminate as many outside influences as possible. Then, learn not to measure yourself against the influences that do reach you. 

Control the digital flow of information.
The elimination of outside influences is a big subject for me, and I've covered similar concepts in many entries before. Cutting down on intake is a discipline that can help you in several fields. For example, in the entry How to Easily Free Up Time for Twitch, I spoke about slashing entire social media platforms from your personal life, in order to clear your mental energies for more productive activities. You've probably heard this from a million sources already, but viewing social media is a killer for self-esteem and creative drive. We may think we're absorbing inspiration and getting ideas from other streamers by seeing what they're up to, but that's just what we tell ourselves when we can't curb this bad habit. The only thing that scrolling through Instagram or Twitter typically does in practice is make you want to scroll through more Instagram and Twitter. You'll see the best side of every other streamer, making you feel like you don't measure up. You'll get into unnecessary discussions and arguments over useless prompts which waste the time and mental energy you could have put toward creating your content. You'll labor over how to phrase your own posts in order to attract an audience that has an incredibly low carryover rate. Unless you go viral, almost no one will follow your Twitch and stick with it because they liked your Instrgram post. Overall, your energies are better spent on your actual goal: Twitch streaming.

Second, in the entry Learn to Love the Grind of Twitch Streaming, I actually suggested that you not watch a lot of other streams either. Like with social media, binging on other people's content is a killer of personal growth. Plus, for every other Twitch stream you watch, you'll gain a plethora of new insecurities about how you don't measure up. Of course having said that, it's important to meet other streamers, network and gain inspiration. Don't avoid contact with other streamers altogether, but realize that doing so will always be a tradeoff. You're building friendships and getting inspired, but you're also accumulating mental baggage, whether you realize it or not. Don't let that baggage get so heavy that you're no longer able to use the inspiration you've gained. Meeting another streamer, getting to know them and joining for some of their shows is one thing- sitting around and watching more hours of streams than you actually create is another. Learn where to draw the line. 


➢ START AND DON'T LOOK BACK


In the entry Stream Before You're Ready, I told the story of how John Lennon and Paul McCartney were already performing before they even knew all the basic guitar chords. They didn't let a lack of knowledge get in the way of doing the thing they loved, they just learned along the way. And I think it's safe to say they did a pretty good job at their chosen craft. As I spoke about in that entry, the acquisition of knowledge can actually harm the creative process and the creative drive. Before starting our channels, we often think that gathering as much information as possible is going to somehow make us better streamers, but all it ever does is make us better at recognizing how unskilled we really are. Skills aren't built by learning, they're built by doing. When they first joined together, Lennon and McCartney didn't know or care whether they were skilled or not- they just made music because it's what they wanted to do. And they formed into one of the greatest rock bands of all time. This is the power of strategic ignorance. 

Celebrate others, but don't measure yourself against them.
Many Twitch streamers try to glean insights about how much work their fellow streamers are putting into their channels, in order to get some kind of baseline for how much work they should put in themselves. This is always a waste of time. Instead of limiting yourself by basing your own growth on someone else's journey, try having no reference points whatsoever. In my own streaming career, I couldn't care less about what any other Twitch streamer does, how fast they grow, how much work they put in, or anything in between. I gladly support the wonderful streamers I've met, I get to know their communities, and I draw inspiration from their content, but I never for a second use their channels as benchmarks to measure my own progress. We're all on our own paths. Everyone grows at a different rate, everyone has different interests, and everyone has a million things that separate them from their peers. As the saying goes, the only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. 


➢ STREAM WITH BLINDERS


When I started on Twitch, I did what just about everyone does. I looked at the most successful channels, tried to break down what made them popular, and attempted to project where I'd be months and years down the line based on the growth I was getting at the time. It was majorly stressful and it ultimately didn't even work. I didn't know it at the time, but I was trapped by very limiting comparisons. Since I started streaming with strategic ignorance however, I've been able to double, triple, and quadruple my output in several different fields. My content has gone in strange directions that viewers have never seen before. And most importantly, I'm ecstatic about streaming all the time. So give it a shot on your own channel- stop taking in so much outside influence and just focus on putting streams out into the world. After all, ignorance is bliss. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Getting to Know Your Viewers



When streaming on Twitch, you will start to build a community over time. This will happen at different rates for everyone, but if you stream consistently for long enough, people will start to form around your shows. Having more viewers in your streams who chat and increase the engagement level during your shows is one of the main ways many Twitch streamers measure success. What I find more interesting than increasing the number of people in your streams is actually learning who they are, what they like, and what makes them tick. In this entry, I'll help you get to know your viewers.


➢ BUILDING A BOND

First, try to focus on is remembering the usernames of your community members. You're not going to get far in building a connection if you constantly reintroduce yourself to someone who's been in your streams several times before. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many streamers have trouble in this department- especially new ones. Like in life, remembering the name of someone you just met is very difficult on a Twitch stream. It doesn't help matters that when you meet new people while streaming, you usually have other things on your mind, like making it through a firefight or going up against a tough boss. There are a few advantages to learning Twitch usernames over names in real life however. For one thing, usernames will typically evoke some kind of image, like a game title, movie character or activity. I'm a visual learner, so if I meet someone with 'T-Rex' or 'Raptor' in their username, I immediately imagine them as a dinosaur, or riding a dinosaur, or stammering like Jeff Goldblum while running from a dinosaur. These kinds of mental associations help to solidify a picture of someone in my mind, and every new thing I learn about them can build on this base mental image. 

Building bonds is important.
Second, it's not enough just to remember who your viewers are, you should want to know more about them. Getting to know people who join your streams is a great way to strengthen your channel, but that doesn't mean you have to treat it like any other rote, mechanical task. People can pick up on authenticity, and they'll be able to tell whether if you're phoning it in. Plus, why shouldn't you want to get to know your community members? They love your shows, and the least you can do is return the interest. By diving deeper into conversation with your community, you get to discuss other hobbies, get game or movie recommendations, and even learn about other cultures. It's very rewarding! 

Often, by opening myself to becoming genuinely interested in people, and by creating mental associations to remember all their names, I'm able to recall specific details about chatters who haven't been around in over a year! But of course, it's not possible to remember everything perfectly. If you forget things, Twitch has a new feature which lets you to click any username to see various pieces of useful info about them. You can see when a user followed, as well as an archive of every message they've sent in your chat with date stamps. If you really can't remember someone, try checking what your last conversation was about before talking to them. If you put in some of these extra bits of effort, you'll go a long way toward connecting better with your viewers. 


➢ SETTING BOUNDARIES


In addition to being more welcoming to your chat, you should hold them to the same standard. Someone typing comments on Twitch has the advantage of being behind a veil of relative anonymity, and as such people will often come into streams to give you a hard time. Now, everyone's streams are different, but however you conduct your shows it's important to set a few boundaries about how you like to keep your chat. Don't forget, whatever you allow people to say in your chat affects not just you, but everyone else in the community. The kinds of guidelines you set can shape your channel's overall vibes.  

If someone makes you uncomfortable in chat, you're allowed
to draw the line.
In my own streams, I like to keep it to an 'if you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it here' state of mind. This not only applies to inappropriate subjects, but also various social faux-pas. Sometimes people will grill you on something you don't feel comfortable talking about, whether out of genuine but misplaced concern, or just to see you squirm. I've spoken about many of the more common chat no-nos in entries like Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself, Setting Limits for Your Streams, and Dealing with Disruptors in Twitch Chat. Sometimes there are comments that don't break rules, but simply don't sit right, however. There's one type of comment which I've always found off-putting: people who said two words in my stream once, over a year previous, would come back into the chat, say hi and then and ask, "Do you even remember me?" or "I bet you don't even remember who I am." This isn't how you would talk to someone in an actual conversation, unless you're planning to kill them or you're a James Bond villain. This person essentially wants to take control of the chat at gunpoint, forcing you to clearly state why you remember them, or squirm on camera while you admit that you don't. Ironically, I typically do remember someone who asks this, but I've taken to completely ignoring such comments, as I don't want to be put to questioning like I'm in court. Confrontation and coercion isn't a good way to build rapport. 

You should also take into account decisions which allow community members to get to know each other more easily. Let's say someone joins your stream for the first time and their username is 'hemanskeletor.' Then when you say hello to them, they say, "Hi, thanks for the welcome. You can call me Adam." This is a pretty normal thing to say, and the viewer is doing nothing wrong. But think about the experience for every other viewer of your stream if you did call this person Adam. No one else would know who you're talking to when you pose a question to 'Adam' a week later, unless they were there at the exact moment when that viewer said their real name. For this reason, when someone asks me to call them by a name that isn't reflected in their handle I'll typically say something like, "It's nice to meet you Adam! But on our streams we only refer to each other by our usernames, because then everyone in chat can understand who we're talking to." 


➢ PLENTY OF OPTIONS


In this entry, I laid out a few very specific examples of how you can build basic bonds, as well as set boundaries to keep your streams more inviting. But there's plenty more you can do to get to know your viewers and build connections. Depending on what kind of community you want to cultivate, and how open you want to be, there are all sorts of avenues you can take. Some streamers allow viewers to call into their shows and vent their problems like they're on morning radio. Others will play multiplayer games with subscribers, or even with general viewers who want to join. Outside of Twitch, many streamers use Discord to really personalize the experience, or they set up community movie nights. But you don't have to get fancy. Above all, make sure you're actually interested when people tell you about themselves. If you're able to do that, you'll get to know your viewers in no time. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Put in the Work


What made you want to start streaming? What keeps you doing it to this day? For many of us who last long on the platform, those answers will be completely different. Oftentimes when beginning our channels, we have assumptions about what it will be like to make a Twitch channel, or how fast we're likely to grow. Maybe we see other communities and visualize what our own viewer base will be, or maybe we harbor fears of jumping into the deep end, and those fears hold us back. These various expectations and anxieties can end up hampering or even halting our progress. In order to stick with our habits, we usually have to shift course from our initial expectations. In essence, we end up finding entirely different reasons to stream, or we quit streaming altogether. In this entry I'll help you to identify when you're headed toward a potentially dangerous path and direct you towards some more sustainable practices. 


➢ FACING REALITY


In many ways, staying consistent on Twitch is no different from forming any long-term habit. You go in thinking about the results: in our case that's usually fame, fortune and massive crowds. What you don't expect are the everyday realities: self-consciousness, lack of motivation and a constant feeling of insurmountable odds stacked against you. As I mentioned in the earlier entry How to Get in the Habit of Streaming, most of the difficulty involved with Twitch streaming has nothing to do with streaming itself. It's a battle against your own ego, your perceived stamina, and your deepest insecurities. These things exist inside your mind, and will always be with you, and that's what makes them the hardest enemies to go up against. 

The fundamental problem is that the typical Twitch hopeful doesn't want to be a streamer, he or she wants to have been a streamer. In short: they want all the rewards and perks that came from years of dedication and sacrifice, but balk at the first sign of hardship in their own short journey. It's okay to stick your head in the clouds for a short while, dreaming about a future where you've made it as a streamer. But if you don't come down to Earth and fall in love with the practical reality of what you actually need to do, you'll never be able to stick it out. 

Of course, a guitar can always be put to other uses...
This happens in all sorts of fields, not just streaming. Every day some young boy or girl picks up a guitar for the first time and has a fantasy about being a rockstar. They beg their parents to buy the instrument and excitedly dive into their music books, then after a month the guitar ends up collecting dust in a corner. What happened here is nothing new. The endless scales and hours of daily practice required to learn the instrument didn't quite measure up to the excitement of performing in front of thousands of screaming fans. Like countless hopefuls before them and countless more to come, this child found that they wanted to be a rockstar, but not necessarily a musician


➢ DON'T GIVE IN TO FEAR


Once someone has streamed for a few weeks and their eyes start to open about how much work it'll actually take to achieve whatever dream they had about Twitch streaming, they begin exploring shortcuts. Typically, content creators think that if they only sat atop of a mountain of viewers, subscribers, or some other arbitrary metric, then they'd be free to simply enjoy their streaming careers without having to worry about anything else. So they buy equipment they don't need, make plays for sponsorships they don't believe in, and widen their nets until they're creating content they don't even want to make anymore. Of course, this doesn't only happen on Twitch- it's the same reason people buy followers on Instagram, use bots on Twitter, or spam other YouTube channels begging for follows. These are all people driven by their egos, perceived stamina and insecurities. And the ultimately irony: if you take this route and reach your goals without actually enjoying what you do, you'll either start to hate streaming itself (or lose enough money doing it) that you'll stop wanting to stream at all. 

Fear is only as powerful as you allow it to be.
So whenever you think about looking for shortcuts, try taking a step back. Consider what feelings are really behind whatever you're doing. Do you actually need this camera when your old one still works just fine, or is your ego telling you that your stream has to look better? Can you actually not put in any more time for streaming, or is that just your perceived stamina telling you that there are no more hours in the day? Do you have a reason to feel dejected after your most recent stream had no viewers, or are you simply letting your insecurities take over? Nothing about your stream reflects on your value as a human being. Instead of making vacuous decisions and purchases to chase some arbitrary milestone, just put in the work. Keep showing up each day and give it everything you have. 


➢ NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE EASY


So you're now looking reality in the face: Twitch streaming is hard. And it's always going to be hard. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue it. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty." Overcoming your negative, lazy, or fearful impulses through streaming consistently will help you to become more confident, and it will give you something to be proud of. Knowing that you stuck with your goals is a very empowering feeling. And by doing so, you will discover a whole world of amazing people creating incredible things. You'll have exciting, sad, hilarious moments with friends made in other cities, across your continent, or even around the world. It's not going to come easily, and it's not going to come quickly, but if you keep putting in genuine effort and allow yourself to appreciate the fruits of your labor in the moment, you'll constantly see the value of your creation. So don't let your fears and insecurities make decisions for you. Just put in the work. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Perfecting Your Pre-Stream Checklist



Making our streams run without a hitch, or as close to that point as possible, is a goal we all aspire to. It doesn't matter how perfect a broadcast is overall- one tiny mistake at the beginning can sometimes throw our confidence for the entire rest of the show. In the previous entry, Creating a Pre-Stream Checklist, I detailed the tool I've found most useful in preventing mistakes from cropping up on my own broadcasts. By laying out every step involved in starting a stream, and then following that script to the letter every time I'm about to go live, I've been able to stream without incident for the past 1,000+ broadcasts. But as I mentioned in that entry, it's not a one-and-done solution. Things will need to be adjusted and fine-tuned, and as your stream evolves, the pre-stream checklist will need to evolve with it. In this entry I'll help you to perfect your pre-stream checklist. 

First, when something goes wrong on your shows, keep in mind the basic troubleshooting steps I laid out in that previously mentioned entry. Essentially, there are three main pre-stream checklist oversights: either your list isn't complete enough, you're not sticking to the list well enough, or there might be a unique situation at play. Even if your problem falls into that third category, you may not have been able to predict it, but you're still responsible for it. Don't start thinking that any problems are outside your realm of control. If something causes you issues on your show, one way or another it can be dealt with. Sometimes you just need to think outside the box. 


➢ THE CHECKLIST IN PRACTICE


I have two quick examples of how a pre-stream checklist helped me with very specific issues. You probably won't have the same issues in the same way, nor will the exact solution likely work for you, but try to understand the underlying reasoning that went into solving them. Then use that mindset to help customize your own list. 

☑ EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED

Isaac Clarke deals with the unexpected every few minutes.
Every few dozen streams, my capture card suffers from an unfortunate glitch where the video feed freezes. I have no way of knowing it's happening in the moment on my streams, sometimes for several minutes, because chatters often assume it's their internet connection causing the show to lock up and won't report it to me. To solve the issue, I have to disable and then re-enable the capture card feed in OBS, resetting it behind the scenes. This works for that single stream where it occurred, but the issue always comes back in a week or two. It's not possible to predict an exact time when the issue will occur again, but it's safe to assume it will never stop happening. So several months ago I incorporated this glitch into my pre-stream checklist, and instead of fixing the problem when it appeared, I started disabling and re-enabling the capture card as one of the steps every single time I turned on OBS. The issue never came back, not because that glitch got patched out from my capture card, but because I built a personal system that wouldn't allow it to appear on-stream in the first place. 

☑ THE RIGHT ORDER

And then of course there's the classic streamer mistake- forgetting your microphone. I have a lavalier mic that attaches to the shirt collar. This means that if I forget to clip it on before a show, I'll still be audible but I'll just sound quieter, like I'm far away. From the audience's perspective in this scenario, I only 'sound different,' and they typically won't point it out as a problem because it's not objectively wrong. To them it could simple be a personal choice- maybe I lowered my microphone volume for some reason. People typically don't want to cry wolf about stream problems- most will only mention something to the streamer if there's no chance it's supposed to be that way. And sure enough, every three months or so I'd go for an entire stream without the mic attached- a very embarrassing mistake. It was especially frustrating because by that time I was already following a pre-stream checklist I had made, but was still forgetting this step every once in a while. How could this be? Instead of simply shrugging and being thankful that the problem didn't occur more frequently, I took it upon myself to revise the checklist once again. Maybe something was too loose, and it only needed a little bit of tightening to prevent me from making that mistake in the future.

Sometimes the checklist just needs piecing together
like a puzzle.
The solution ended up being hidden in one of the most unlikely of changes. Before I appear on camera at the beginning of one of my streams, a startup screen appears. This scene plays clips and elevator music, giving viewers a few minutes to congregate in the chat before the episode begins. When I'm about to end the intro and start the show properly, I switch to an OBS layout I created that displays a 30-second countdown. And this exact moment is where the bottleneck lived. Before altering my checklist, when I was getting ready to switch off the intro screen, I would do three actions in the following order: put on my headphones, start the 30-second countdown, and clip on my microphone. I was very rigid in following this action, and 99 times out of 100, it would work without any flaw. But I do a lot of streams- I go through this process of starting a broadcast three separate times every day- so there are a lot of chances for me to screw up. And 100 streams come and go pretty quickly for me. That means after those 99 flawless executions, I was still bound to forget the microphone on that 100th attempt a few months later. 

Of course on paper, this should have been foolproof. This portion only involved three steps- how could I forget them? What I realized was that these steps would work when there was no outside stress or interference, but what if someone distracted me right after pressing the countdown button, or if I needed to respond to something in chat during that moment, or if I had something heavy on my mind? I found that it was those instances when I'd forget to execute the final three steps correctly, and there was no failsafe between clipping on the mic and appearing on-air where I could catch my mistake. Once I realized this, all it took to solve my problem was a simple reorganization. I switched the order so that I had to have my mic clipped on before pressing the countdown button. This created a built-in moment to check myself: if I was starting that countdown, I would always reach for my shirt collar and make sure that the mic was there. If the mic wasn't clipped, the countdown couldn't start. And in finding a way to reliably check myself earlier in the process, I've prevented making that mistake for the past year and counting. 


➢ FIND YOUR WEAK POINTS


Once again, my mistakes and solutions aren't going to translate 1:1 to whatever you're experiencing on your own shows. But in this entry I showed you two ways in which adjusting my pre-stream checklist has helped me in a very tangible way with my own personal streaming issues. All you need to do is identify whatever is causing you the same kind of grief on your shows- once you identify the problem, you'll be able to start zeroing in on a solution. As long as you stay inquisitive and don't resign your problems to the cruel Twitch gods, you too can perfect your pre-stream checklist. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Scaling Your Twitch Channel



We all have very different Twitch channels, but none of us can avoid running into one universal problem: scale. As we expand operations, things will invariably go wrong. The way in which they go wrong will differ, but the fact that they will go wrong can't be avoided. What we can do however, is minimize the damage to our streams (or our willingness to stream) which comes from scaling incorrectly, by thinking through our ideas more strategically. In this entry, I'm going to help you scale your streams the right way. 


➢ PLANS VS ACTIONS


From the moment we start our channels, we're already facing a problem of scale. "How do I turn streaming into a consistent habit?" is the first question we all have to answer. Most prospective streamers never find a solution, instead broadcasting a few scattered 'first streams' over the course of a few months and then giving up, without ever figuring out how to scale their idea into a scheduled activity. These people typically lose because they think about the scale of their success, but not the scale of their process. It's easy to do one stream and then immediately daydream about what it'll be like when you're a famous Twitch personality, but daydreaming doesn't actually get any work done. As these people find out, this type of cart-before-the-horse thinking can actually hurt your dream more than help it. 

For more experienced streamers, scale still looms large. Any time we want to add a new community feature, a new social channel, or stream longer, we face the possibility of outgrowing our production capabilities. Oftentimes we take the same mindset as those streaming hopefuls. We think, "Wouldn't it be great if I had a morning talk show in addition to my main stream?" and then we get so caught up in the romantic notion that we don't consider the practical necessities of fitting that show into our schedules. Our ideas about how cool it would be to do daily posts on Instagram might be fine on paper, but in practice they may not work quite as smoothly once three months have gone by and we can't go a full week without breaking our streak. 


➢ OPTIMIZING GROWTH


What causes us to fail so often when trying to scale our channels? The problem is actually quite simple. When adding some new idea, we typically only consider how busy we are right now. What we should be doing is thinking about how busy we are on our busiest day and then creating a schedule to fit that. By not working this way, most streamers set themselves up to fail from the moment they decide to expand. 

This guy clearly thinks a lot about scale.
My mindset on the subject is very similar to how I optimize my PC games. If a game has cutting-edge graphics, there are two ways to go about adjusting the graphics settings. First, you can do some tests and figure out the absolute highest settings your PC can handle while still outputting 60 frames per second, then play the game at those settings. Or, you can find those absolute highest settings, and then set every slider to be 25% lower than that value. The second strategy is always smartest. This is because the first doesn't take into account the fact that things will change as you progress through the game. Every level has differently sized environments and a different amount of special effects. Just because the game runs smoothly with those settings in the initial area where you tested it, doesn't mean it'll run smoothly throughout. You'll encounter performance issues as soon as the action gets more exciting. But if you lower the bar from the outset, you won't ever run into a performance problem. This is because you accounted for scale from the beginning, and it means dealing with a lot less headaches. 

Most streamers expand their channels in a similar way to the first PC optimization strategy- they find their peak output levels, then attempt to perform at those maximum levels every day. This works fine until their lives get busier, and they realize that they can't actually keep pace with their channel expansions. But if you find your peak levels and then scale back your expectations significantly- planning to make a two hour stream every day instead of three, or an Insta post every week instead of every day- you'll find that you'll keep hitting your targets. Plus, if you do more on a given day, then great! There's nothing wrong with going above and beyond, but by scaling back your expectations, you'll still hit the baseline even on your worst days.


➢ IMPLEMENTING IDEAS


Of course, I've made every scaling mistake imaginable throughout my past endeavors. Some have led to giving up on projects entirely, while others have simply meant stunted growth. The three key scaling factors that have helped me most on my current channel have been cutting back on time commitment, removing expectations, and good old preparation. 

Learning a language is hard enough without a huge
commitment added in.
The first example has been a type of show you've heard about before in The Twitch Playbook: my Duolingo streams. I knew I wanted to learn Japanese, but I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew by adding another full-sized stream to my roster. So instead, I cut back on the time commitment of these shows from the beginning, making the Duolingo streams themselves only as long as it would take to complete my daily challenges on the app. Any other interactions or additional learning were bonuses. Sometimes the language streams would be longer, but the daily challenges were all I ever expected myself to do each day. I wasn't shooting for anyone's standard of a 'full-length Twitch stream' every day on Duolingo, instead simply documenting my journey each morning as I learned a little bit more. This has allowed me to stick with this habit for the past 450 days in a row and counting. 

Another major boon has been removing expectations. You may be aware from previous entries that I produce three livestreams every single day. It's actually part of my brand's identity at this point. And yet this statistic isn't actually true- for more than 100 days in a row I've actually been doing four streams every day. In addition to my Japanese language learning and video game streams, I also do a fourth show in which I edit YouTube videos live on stream. These shows, which I refer to as 'secret streams,' have allowed me to consistently populate a satellite YouTube channel while also consistently adding more content to my live offering. I could have announced from the outset, "Okay guys, now I do FOUR streams per day!" but this would have set me up to potentially fail, because upon starting, I didn't know whether I'd have the time to fit that fourth stream into my lifestyle yet. Instead, I just did the fourth stream without setting any expectations, and I found out that, yes, I could in fact do it consistently. 

Finally, preparation helps a lot when scaling up. The best example of this would be the resource you're engaging with right now. Before starting The Twitch Playbook, I had no idea how to write, record, mix, produce, or release a blog and podcast. I didn't know how long each entry would take to make, I didn't know whether I'd be covering subjects that could help anyone, I didn't even know if I wanted to make it for the long term or if it was just a fleeting idea. So instead of releasing the first episode immediately upon completion and hoping for the best, I wrote the first nine entries before I ever released a single one to the public. This allowed me to really shape the content on a macro scale, get an idea of whether a weekly schedule was realistic, and see if I enjoyed doing it in general, before committing myself. 

Cutting back on time commitment, removing expectations, and properly preparing have all helped me in many ways. They've allowed me to fit three completely alien and time-consuming concepts into my daily schedule without skipping a beat. When starting my channel, I never could have imagined creating the amount of content I currently produce, but by thinking about scale I was able to expand beyond my wildest dreams. The next time you want to add something to your Twitch brand, do yourself a favor and think about scale before taking the plunge.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Stream How You Want


You may be thinking about making changes to your Twitch channel, but are worried about how they will be received by your audience. You've heard me talk in previous entries about streaming the kinds of things that make you happiest, but you don't see any guarantee that such a strategy would work. It's too simple to work. Sure, you'd enjoy doing this new activity or using this new schedule, but what if everyone else hates it and you lose followers? How can you take that step into the unknown?
Allow me to answer this question with a story of one of the past century's greatest musicians and how he dealt with this very problem: 


➢ HOW DOES IT FEEL?


By the beginning of 1965, Bob Dylan was wildly popular in his chosen craft. Armed with acoustic guitar and harmonica, he wrote folk music and protest songs like nobody else. Tracks like Blowin' in the Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin' told with stunning accuracy the sentiments of the young culture on hard subjects, and consequently this man was more than a popular musician at the time- among many, he was treated as something closer to a prophet. His simple acoustic arrangements served to amplify the angry, powerful verses within his compositions. The conscious choice to use this classic sound was a major part of his appeal to many young people looking to wean themselves from the loud rock and roll which had dominated the airwaves for the past several years. For good reason, the media had labeled him 'The Spokesman of a Generation.'

Not everyone will agree with your changes
And then something very unexpected happened. A few months later, in March 1965, Dylan released an album which utilized an electric rock and roll backing band. And after that, singles and more albums began dropping with an entirely rock sound. The collective hearts of millions sank. This wasn't a simple gimmick. Dylan had gone electric. On performances and tours throughout the following two years, the 'Spokesman of a Generation' was shouted at and harassed on stage every time he played one of his electric songs. Millions of fans around the country felt betrayed.


➢ LIKE A ROLLING STONE


Why did Dylan switch to electric music if his fans all loved his acoustic songs? Why did he keep playing on stage when people actively hated the music? Why, at this point, did he even get out of bed in the morning? 

Because he wanted to. 

There's nothing more to it than that. Dylan didn't owe anyone an explanation for exploring a new style of music. His creative driving force wasn't owned by his fans, it wasn't subject to anyone's approval. He didn't, as he put it, "need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," it was clear that a huge portion of his audience now hated him for trying something new. But it was his right to go down that path if he chose, accepting whatever consequences may come with this choice. 

Do you have the same courage when it comes to your Twitch channel? If there's something you want to change, which alters your content to its very core- if this change would make you happier, but upset almost everyone in your audience- would you make it? It's a sobering thought. Not many of us would have such fortitude, and none of us have even a fraction of Bob Dylan's fame. 

Going your own way is one of the hardest things you can do.
I don't think there exists any better example for how to choose the authentic pursuit of your craft over public popularity than the infamous era of Dylan going electric. And yet, there's a part of this story I haven't told yet. Today, critics hail Dylan's 1965 debut electric LP, Bringing It All Back Home, as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. You'll find it, along with his subsequent two electric albums, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, highly placed on any respectable all-time list. After a few years, fans simmered about his change and began to adore him once again, and of course in the ensuing decades Dylan went on to continuously shift his sound even further. He didn't rest on his rock music laurels, just as he didn't rest on his acoustic ones.


➢ NOTHING TO LOSE


It almost doesn't matter what the critical or audience reception to his music ultimately was, however. It's easy to see these positive upswings as a 'moral' to the story, but that would be missing the point. The real gem to take away from this isn't the success or love that eventually came from Dylan's change, but the fact that he didn't allow any opinions at all to sway him from pursuing his craft. Because that's what we all do in the end: we pursue our crafts. Sometimes our muse gets up and flies away, and it's our choice whether we follow it into uncertain territory or stagnate out of fear. So any time you're thinking about making a change to your Twitch channel, no matter how earth-shattering, think back to Bob Dylan and simply stream how you want. You'll be happier for it.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Your Goals Might Be Sabotaging Your Streams



As Twitch streamers, we have big ambitions. Most of us start our channels hoping to someday make a living off of our shows, never having to clock into a 9-5 job again. We create roadmaps for ourselves, with milestones along the way: a certain number of followers, average chat activity, money made from subscriptions, all sorts of things. We see the bar going up and become even more motivated to keep going. Oftentimes we will take one of these milestones and put everything we have into achieving that one thing. For example, reaching affiliate status, or gaining our first 1,000 followers. These are major events for a Twitch channel, and would indicate clear forward progress. But what if I told you that these very goals you set for yourself could end up toppling your channel in the long run? 


➢ SPRINTING DOESN'T FORM HABITS


How can goals backfire? Let's flash back to almost a decade earlier. The year was 2011, and throughout my life it had been my dream to cover the video game industry. I was already working on small commercials as a video editor and camera operator at this point, and in my spare time I had created a small brand where I wrote articles and created video coverage about video game events. Over the ensuing six years, with no connections at all, I did an insane amount of research, got to know all the PR companies, and worked my way up as press at events like PAX, Comic-Con and eventually E3. I booked interviews with the developers, managed a team of friends as crew members, and then edited all the footage when I got home into a highly polished video. I worked incredibly hard on this side project for no pay and no fame- it was simply my dream to be there among my personal heroes, creating something of my very own. After each piece of coverage was complete, I was over the moon about accomplishing another of my bucket list items, having felt so motivated while planning and executing these endeavors. 

And then the next day I'd go on an unplanned hiatus, not releasing anything else for months. 

Going to things like this were bucket list items for me.
What was the problem? I was too in love with the milestones themselves. I was blinded by the fact that I'd be going to more prestigious events and meeting more famous developers, rather than thinking about the larger picture. Questions like, "What kind of content will I make after the event is over?" didn't really cross my mind. You'll notice that these goals in themselves did not prevent me from working hard- in fact, they did the exact opposite. But I wasn't able to sustain the hard work, because once the event was over I knew the next wouldn't come for another few months. My work ethic was essentially a series of sprints, and despite getting frustrated with myself every time I noticed I was slacking, I couldn't bring myself to stay consistent in those first few years. 

This is the way most people create things, and it's the reason most people don't continue to create things. In the entry Streaming Under Quarantine, I talked about how inspiration is not enough to form a habit. That initial spark can sustain you for only so long before you run out of steam, so it's important to maintain discipline as well. When I was working on my games industry coverage, I never figured out how to get as excited about the mundane months between events as as I did about the events themselves. And because of that, I was left feeling very unsatisfied with my content output. For most streamers it's the same issue: there will be an incredible amount of drive when embarking on their goal to reach 1,000 followers, and there will be another burst of energy when approaching that goal, but before reaching that point the doldrums between might sink their channel entirely. This is because the systems aren't in place to keep them motivated about what they're doing. 


➢ MARATHONS ARE OVERRATED


Okay, so you get where this is going. This has just been a fancy way of saying that streaming isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. But you'd be wrong. It's not a marathon either. And why is that?

Because sprints and marathons both have finish lines. 

That's the problem in essence. Some streamers may work toward their goals as a sprint, and some may approach them more carefully as a marathon, but both strategies require that these streamers reach an end point. And it's during this end point that the vacuum of demotivation sucks away all energy and drive. 

Consider the story of The Lord of the Rings. Within its pages, Frodo embarks on an insanely ambitious quest- something that the strongest people of the realm wouldn't dare to undertake. He goes through immense physical and psychological strain, but always keeps his eye on the prize. With a few helpful nudges from friends along the way, he comes out six months later and one finger shorter, having completed his quest. He's a hero throughout Middle-earth and is set for life- now having time to write his book, visit the greatest kingdoms of the land with the highest honors, and basically live better than anyone else of the newly christened Fourth Age. But what actually happens when Frodo returns home? Having rid himself of both the greatest burden and greatest purpose in his life, Frodo is stricken with such a black melancholy that he decides to sail into the undying lands of Valinor, symbolically choosing death over a twilight existence on earth. 

Had to fit a LOTR reference in there somewhere.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that undertaking ambitious goals as a streamer will kill you, but you can see the parallels in Frodo's journey. When grinding for partner, undertaking huge marathon shows, trying to reach some arbitrary follower number, or any of a thousand other possible goals in between, streamers will put themselves under extreme stress for long stretches of time. And that's not good for the psyche. You might lose your taste for streaming along the way. And if you don't, then once you reach that goal you could end up feeling purposeless enough to lose it afterwards. Before you know it, you might be on a break without even realizing how it happened, watching your channel slowly sail to the undying lands to quietly gather digital dust.  


➢ THE RIGHT KINDS OF GOALS


So sprints aren't the answer, and neither are marathons. Instead, think of your progress simply as constant movement. This descriptor has no implication of finishing, nor does it suggest a particular speed. It simply means you're going to move forward and never stop moving forward. As I mentioned in entries like Gain Your First Followers Using the Power of Celebration, break up your goals into tiny portions so that they're constantly achievable. If you're completing a goal and starting a new one every week, or even every day, then you'll never have time to fall into a pit of demotivation. Never allow a goal to be so large that it becomes part of your identity. 

But let's check back in on that struggling YouTuber from 2011, who would create content in bursts but couldn't keep a steady pace. Now, nine years later, my content runs like clockwork. As I've mentioned in previous entries, I've done over 2,100 broadcasts in the past two years and never missed a single scheduled show. I'm proud of my content for plenty of reasons, but the largest of these is that I can look myself in the mirror as a content creator. By focusing less on goals, I've been able to completely sidestep the doldrums that would cause me to go dark for days, weeks, or even months on end during my YouTube days. If you ever have similar crises of motivation on your own channel, consider that your goals might be sabotaging your streams.