Thursday, October 3, 2019

Stream Before You're Ready

Have you started doing streams on your channel yet? If not, what have you been doing? Have you been looking up tutorials and equipment specs instead? Have you been asking your favorite streamers in their chats for tips on getting started? Have you been through every Twitch Playbook entry, but still haven't started streaming? It's understandable. We all naturally want to acquire as much information as possible before fully embarking on any new endeavor. Our schooling has conditioned us to behave this way since we were small children. However, gaining too much knowledge without putting it into practice can bury you. If you're waiting until you're 'ready' to start your channel, understand this:

You will never be ready. 

You simply have to start doing it.

Information is important, but only when obtained in the right way. Good advice for one person can be detrimental to another- it's all a matter of perspective. The educational foundations on which you build your project are very important, and in my experience I've found that there are really only two ways a person can learn. I call them 'stockpiling' and 'stacking'. Stockpiling is the act of hoarding as much knowledge as you can before starting a project. Stacking is the act of alternating between real-world experience and short bursts of knowledge acquisition. I truly believe that many new streamers' chances of success hinge on how well they can stack their learning, rather than stockpiling it.


It's common in RPG games to get overwhelmed
by the sheer amount of options
There are very real dangers with learning too much before taking action. Think of the black hole many of us get sucked into when trying to decide what to watch on Netflix. We load up the app without any specific intention of what to watch, we only know that we vaguely want to watch something. We then end up scrolling through endless lists of movies and series, trying to find the perfect one. By the time we've decided, we've either wasted a considerable chunk of time doing so, or we've started our 50th watchthrough of The Office. The same thing would happen to me with video games as well. I'd spend minutes or hours some days just looking through my Steam backlog, sometimes never even playing a game at all because I couldn't find the 'perfect' one to suit my mood. Analysis Paralysis is a very real phenomenon- real enough that it has a hefty Wikipedia article associated with it- and it can happen to anyone, faced with any decision.

Watching Netflix, playing video games, and other decisions like choosing a restaurant are all relatively self-contained tasks though. They really only affect you or the group you're with. Starting a major project however, can multiply your analysis paralysis exponentially, because now other people will eventually be able to see (and judge) the work that you're putting out. This typically means you'll simply continue stockpiling knowledge until you feel you're an expert, then give up without having ever taken more steps toward your dream. Make no mistake- the acquisition of knowledge, without regularly putting it to practical use, is just another form of procrastination.

I've tried to make all the anecdotes and advice in The Twitch Playbook completely authentic, but I also try to force you into action as often as I can. That's because you can't truly understand what I'm talking about in many of these entries if you don't actually start streaming. If you try to stream after absorbing all 40 entries, the sheer weight of trying to take all my insights and tips into account could cripple you. This is because you have no foundation on which to base them. In short, if you've been listening to all these entries but still haven't started streaming regularly on your channel, here's the best advice I can give: Do a stream right now, and forget everything I've taught you. Only after you've streamed several times will you start to truly understand which advice in this playbook might be useful to you, and your specific style.


Before they ever appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show,
The Beatles had performed for thousands of combined
hours on stage.
Did you know that all four members of The Beatles, the most influential rock band in music history, didn't know how to write or even read musical notation? How is it possible that so much genre-defining art could come from a group of people who didn't even know one of the basic prerequisites of their craft?

There's a famous story about how John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who had already been performing together, took a bus across Liverpool only because they heard about a guy who could teach them the "B7" chord on guitar. After seeing it, playing it a few times, and memorizing it, they went back home with one more piece of the puzzle figured out. This is the ultimate example of stacking knowledge- they didn't wait until they had learned everything about their subject before they started working hard at it. They loved their craft so much that they didn't mind getting on stage and being uninformed, or even downright bad. They just wanted to play music, and extra bits of knowledge were welcome only when they could help with that singular goal.

The Beatles would play at nightclubs on stage for 5-6 hours per night, seven days per week, for hundreds and hundreds of underground performances. Malcolm Gladwell famously estimates that they had clocked 10,000 hours of live performance before they ever recorded their first album in 1963. Experience is always what matters, and you'll never accomplish your dreams if you never start putting them into action.


If you're at home right now, please... do yourself a favor and start streaming. If you're at work, or out of the house, commit to doing your first show when you get home. If you feel yourself coming up with an excuse about not owning the necessary equipment, see the entry Start Your Twitch Channel with NO MONEY. There is no acceptable excuse. Your first stream will be scary, you won't be able to do the exact show you'd like to do, and it will probably turn out badly, but don't let that stop you. Keep going, pay attention to what can be improved, and you'll start to enjoy the upward climb.

The reason you should stream before you're ready is that you'll never actually be 'ready' to stream. There's always one more thing you could know about, one more piece of equipment you could buy, one more piece of inspiration to get you motivated. Gaining knowledge is important, but stockpiling insights without taking action only makes you feel productive while getting nothing tangible done. When you stack bricks of knowledge between bricks of experience, you'll be surprised how quickly you're able to build something amazing.

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