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. 


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


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. 


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. 

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