Friday, May 14, 2021

How to Flesh Out Stream Ideas

Throughout this resource, I’ve advised that you should never wait to start streaming, whether that involves beginning your channel altogether, or revising your streams in some way. If you want to make a change, it’s better to do it in small increments, and iterate on that idea over time than to make one big overhaul. In the entry Grow Your Channel in Public, I even talked about how it's actually a disadvantage to create something perfect from the beginning. Being able to notice a tangible growth trajectory over time is one of the great joys of a longtime Twitch channel viewer, and you shouldn't rob your fans of that opportunity. But how can you make sure your ideas are good ones, and prevent yourself from looking like a fool in front of your people? The answer to this lies in your mindset: What environment are you creating for yourself when you flesh out stream ideas? 


In the entry I mentioned above, I talked about how growing your channel in small, visible steps is more engaging than making sweeping overhauls. But even aside from the benefits such a public growth process gives to your audience, this workflow will help you make better decisions for your channel in general. Taking small steps is how a person keeps hold of their creative energy, and allows them more wiggle room when they want to improve. There’s a great piece of advice from the literary world, which states that you should never rewrite while you’re writing. The writer should simply put down all their ideas, no matter how terrible they seem, and leave them on the page until the end. Then when their whole draft is done, they can go back and change things. 

Pictured: Starkiller from The Force Unleashed,
surrounded by my early Twitch Playbook drafts.

This is how I try to write The Twitch Playbook every week. When I start writing, I merely jot down a few vaguely related sentences. Then I typically go into a state of mild panic, because it looks like that week’s entry will be completely terrible, and I spend a little stretch of time having no idea how those disparate thoughts will fit together. But throughout it all, I force myself to write freely about each of these three or four points, without judgment of any kind, until I have a few paragraphs on each subject. Then, before I know it, I have roughly a dozen terribly written paragraphs which make some kind of sense, but don’t really feel cohesive. But it’s this free writing stage which has laid the path for everything. From that point, once all that garbage has been dumped onto the page, all I have to do is sift through it- a.k.a. rewrite what I already have into a shorter, more concise version of itself- and I’ll have a finished entry. I always think the entry is going to be terrible, right up until the end, because the polish doesn’t come in until the absolute final stage. 

And this is the only way that works for me. The reverse never gets me results. Trying to change my ideas before I’ve spent some time writing a bunch of absolute trash typically traps me in a never ending loop. I sit there trying to find the ‘perfect’ one or two sentences, and don’t get anything else written. The way I see it, putting down the big mass of badly written thoughts is like being a sculptor and gathering a big lump of clay. You should only start sculpting once all the clay is on the table. And just like with writing, when I’m coming up with ways to improve my channel behind the scenes, this is the best way I’ve found to do it. There are no wrong answers at the beginning stage of the process. I simply spew a dozen or more terrible, half-baked concepts onto the page, then flesh them all out and sift through what I have for nuggets of inspiration that I can refine into something better. 


Now, all these iteration ideas are great for behind-the-scenes work, but that’s not the only way you should be utilizing these principles. You can apply this same thought process to a live broadcast as well. Improv comedians use a guideline called “Yes, and...” Through this line of thinking, when a comedian is performing on stage with other comedians, and someone sets up a joke, the comedian responding will never shut that joke down, or say, “No.” They will always build on that joke by saying, “Yes, and...” Even if the setup is for a joke they think is completely abysmal, the comedian will only ever try to find ways to keep the bit going and make it funny. Essentially, they’re taking the writer’s principle of never rewriting while you write, and applying it to a live performance setting. 

Ricky could tell you all about "Yes, and..."

And as you might imagine, this “Yes, and...” idea comes in very handy while you’re Twitch streaming live on the air. It makes you more open to unexpected situations, letting you take technical problems, chat messages, and other surprises in stride. Thinking this way allows you to create entertainment and value out of things that might have caused another streamer to lock up or cancel their show. In the entry Up Your Showmanship on Stream, I mentioned that I like to use chat messages as springboards to make more interesting responses. So instead of simply giving a one word answer to a yes-or-no question, I say, “Here’s my answer, and here’s a story about that.” So even when engaging with comments that aren’t problematic or surprising, you can utilize the “Yes, and...” philosophy to make your responses even more compelling.

And on top of that, if you combine the “never rewrite while you write” principle with “Yes, and...” for your streams, you can get big results. Consider these two philosophies for a minute. In the first, you are throwing ideas at the wall, knowing they’re only half thought-out. And in the second, you’re training yourself to be better at creating entertainment from any possible situation in a live scenario. So when you put them together, it means you will actually be able to start trying any idea on your live broadcasts, even if it’s completely terrible, and always be able to make it work. I’ve often spoken in Twitch Playbook entries about how you should attempt your worst ideas, and stream your passions even if nobody else on Twitch is doing it. If you’ve had trouble believing me before, the mindset I'm describing in this entry will be the key you need to unlock that true creative potential. I constantly try things on and around my own channel that are totally antithetical to everything else I’ve done. You’ve heard me describe several of my weirdest ideas in the past two years’ worth of entries. And whether I continue doing them, build upon them, or change them into new things entirely, I never regret having done them in the first place. I always allow them to play out by taking the ideas and saying, “Yes, and...” 


Many Twitch streamers can feel trapped, because they get in their own heads about changes they want to make, and because of this, they never end up actually making those changes. Other people are so afraid that they never even start streaming in the first place. Both of these problems are due to a fear of uncertainty. The streamers and prospective streamers who fall into these deadly traps want everything to be planned out and perfect before they start on their new endeavors, not realizing that uncertainty and surprise is a natural part of the process. So if you suffer from this problem yourself, work on your ability to throw all sorts of things out there, and then try your best to make them work. You’ll be surprised how many of those quick sketches of stream ideas can turn into full-blown masterpieces, if you only take the time to flesh them out. 

No comments:

Post a Comment