Friday, June 21, 2019

Learn to Love the Grind of Twitch Streaming

Many people get into Twitch streaming and feel like they're immediately at a disadvantage. They look at other streamers' setups and grow dejected. "It seems like everybody else is already ahead of me," they say. "If all the other streamers have better equipment, graphics, hosting techniques, or video game skills than I do, then why should I even try?" This dark rabbit hole has been the reason that many potential streamers never even started their channels, and it's been the downfall of established streamers of all sizes. Twitch is hard, and it will never stop presenting you with challenges, no matter how large you grow. Instead of looking at what others have and measuring yourself against them, you need to enjoy the process of growing your own channel. You may not last long otherwise.


Here's something about my channel: it looks and sounds worse than many other similarly sized channels. I have fewer followers than others who started at the same time. I have fewer subscribers and donations than some others at my level. And I'm aware that this will ALWAYS be the case- someone out there will always be better than me in some specific field.

It's about the Journey. Heh. Get it?
I don't sign onto my Twitch streams every day hating what I do, just because I know I'll never truly measure up against all other Twitch channels. I've learned to love the JOURNEY, not the DESTINATION. Every second of building my channel is the exciting part. The problem solving, the sleepless nights, the thousands of combined hours logged on-camera, those are what I find fun. Overcoming those challenges isn't just a means to an end. The menial, repetitive, and frustrating tasks ARE the end unto themselves.


Twitch streamers are constantly under a heavy amount of peer pressure, whether they recognize it or not. Many think that if they don't have the microphone, camera, capture solution, chatbot features, social media options, or games that their contemporaries have, that their streams must be inferior. They become insecure on their shows, complaining about their equipment, apologizing for something they don't do on stream, or growing frustrated with the size of their community. This thought process is obviously illogical. How one person stacks up to other streamers in some arbitrary category has nothing to do with that person's worth as a streamer, but peer pressure on Twitch is very real all the same. How do you combat this? The answer is clear, but I bet you never thought to do it:

Don't watch a lot of other Twitch streams. 

Focus on your own work.
I've never seen anyone recommend this before, but it's actually been one of the most crucial things in learning to love the grind of streaming for me. Think about it. You're watching another streamer whose shows look and sound way more professional than yours. Reaching their level would be like scaling a twenty story wall. You just can't do it. Now you get home, and you have to do your own stream, with its own walls to scale. Even though these walls are only one story high, they are still very difficult for you to climb on your own. "At this rate, I'll never be able to scale a twenty story wall like the other streamer," you say to yourself. You can't see your stream ever getting as good as theirs, and you become demotivated. Then you slowly start missing more and more of your scheduled stream days until you're no longer streaming at all. It sounds ridiculous, but this is a VERY real phenomenon. It's happened to me before I started my Twitch channel. And it can happen to anyone, at any time.

The problem in the above example isn't the fact that this person is growing too slowly, or that they can't scale their own wall. The problem is that they're being distracted by someone else's wall, completely unrelated to theirs. They have no concept of how much work this other person put in behind the scenes, and they shouldn't care either way. The reason they became demotivated was because they weren't focusing on their own work. They weren't interested in the grind itself, they were interested in the reward that comes at the end: in this case, an amazing looking stream.

Of course it's important to sometimes watch other channels- I've advised you do it in several entries before. The difference is, you shouldn't binge on their content, or you'll subconsciously start measuring your stream's worth against theirs. You should get to know other streamers, get inspired by small ideas they use on their channels, and meet their communities, but don't fall into the trap of consuming so much content that you forget how much work is required to create your own.


Let's return to the metaphor of the twenty story wall I described earlier. What if there was a trampoline you could buy, which could bounce you SO high into the air that it would immediately get you to the top of that twenty story wall? Would you buy it? Based on the behavior I've seen on Twitch, most streamers would say, "Yes."

Here's the problem: What happens when you have to scale the NEXT wall, which is thirty stories high? As we established in the metaphor earlier, your own skillset can barely get you ONE story off the ground. Guess you'll have to get a better trampoline.

Buying things is a slippery slope.
This is the most basic way I'm able to explain why you shouldn't buy things to improve your stream. There will always be bigger problems to overcome, and more pieces of equipment to buy. You won't feel better by artificially boosting the quality of your stream, because once you buy one $200 microphone, it will feel out of place without a $200 camera, or a $200 stream deck. And then once you've gotten all of those things, there will be $500 versions with even more features that you could buy to get even bigger improvements! All the while, your personality on camera still lacks confidence, your Fortnite win/loss ratio hasn't improved, and your channel hasn't grown any faster since making all these purchases. Essentially, your tech has gotten better but YOU haven't.

I've mentioned this opinion about not buying things in almost every single entry, but I suspect it's still not enough to sway some listeners. Gear lust is one of the most pervasive and hard to shake things in the Twitch community, after all. Be honest: since following The Twitch Playbook, have you bought any equipment, software, subscriptions, or other items for the specific purpose of improving your stream? If you did, don't worry. I'm not saying you've failed or that you didn't really need it, but consider having that be the last purchase you make for your channel until you've done significantly more streams- let's say 100-200 more combined hours on-camera.


Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it isn't fun. Some levels in Super Mario will be a real challenge to get through, but that only makes it more rewarding to overcome those challenges. When you're at the store, you don't think of getting a Super Mario game because you want to beat it, you think of getting that game because you want to play it. The part that happens BEFORE the ending is the fun part, not the action of filing the completed game away on your shelf. You should think of Twitch the same way- each follower, viewer or subscriber milestone you reach is like beating a game, but everything you do leading up to those milestones should be the actual fun part. There's no gratification in the number itself. If you want to truly last in the long haul, fall in love with the mundane grind, not the far-off rewards.

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