Friday, June 11, 2021

Stream with a Running Start

In past entries of this resource, I’ve spoken about the importance of keeping plans to yourself. This is an extremely important subject to me, because it was one of the most measurably helpful concepts when first building my channel. It’s so meaningful to me in fact, that the third entry I ever released, titled Build Your Twitch Channel Like You’re a Secret Agent, is dedicated to this exact subject. That entry, which was focused on brand-new streamers, advised against sharing plans and ambitions (and even the existence of your Twitch channel) with family or friends until you’ve already been producing your content steadily for months on end. But this concept is too broad-reaching to stop there. The sharing of goals can damage the output of any creator, even those who are seasoned streaming veterans. No matter the skill level, anyone on Twitch can stay more motivated by streaming with a running start.


There are a few widely accepted concepts that I take issue with, and I think these fallacies hurt many content creators at various levels of experience. Many claim that telling other people about your goals can help keep you accountable. This could be true for some, but it’s never actually worked for me personally. And by looking through the graveyard of announcement tweets, videos and streams by Twitch creators which were never followed through, it’s easy to see just how often this logic betrays people. The problem with this concept of forcing accountability is that it cuts both ways. When you try to start a new type of stream you’ve never done before, you haven’t built the habit yet. And while this habit is still forming, it’s normal to stumble and lapse while trying to find your footing. But when you announce a definitive schedule or plan for your streams before ever starting the habit, you’ve instantly put unnecessary pressure on yourself to get everything right at a time when you should really just be working out the kinks and allowing yourself to make mistakes. And then if you do stop streaming for a while, or falter in your goal in any way, that same sense of accountability that might have motivated you to keep going is now going to make you feel like everyone knows you’ve failed. This kind of psychological humiliation ends up working just as potently to put the streamer down as its accountability might have helped to bring them up.

And it's a big sword at that. 

Publicly announcing things not only makes it more crushing to lapse in your habits, but it also makes it more difficult to rethink your ideas. Maybe you’ve announced a new show that focuses on ultra-difficult indie platformers every Thursday. You came up with a clever name for it, and got an amazing logo and graphics package made for the show. But now, after spending a few Thursdays struggling through these episodes, you’ve realized that you don’t really love making the content. Well, now you’re in a bit of a tricky situation. Not only have you announced it and heard everyone in your audience voice their approval for the concept, but you’ve also committed all this time and energy to perfecting the concept and branding as well. It’s going to be harder to change things about the show than it would have been if you hadn’t made a big deal about starting it. And it might sound silly, but this small extra bit of psychological pressure keeps many streamers stuck producing content they don’t actually love making.

And the thing is, there’s nothing actually wrong with announcing things. The trick is knowing when to announce them. The best time to announce a new plan is when it’s no longer a plan. Instead, announce something when it’s already become a habit. This gets you a running start with any piece of content, and it allows you to stay motivated for much longer.


Here’s how to get a running start. Let’s say you’re planning to do a new show where you broadcast your gym sessions five times a week. Imagine whatever you would have announced, the schedule you would have promised, and the hype you would have created. Then, instead of announcing it at all, just start producing the content to the best of your ability. Everything will still be the same- the audience can still watch the show, interact with you, suggest workouts, or do whatever, in the same way they would have if you announced it was coming out five days a week. But by not promising an infrastructure for an unproven concept, you’re now more free to let this new show idea grow naturally.

Kiryu is about to get a workout without
even needing to hit the gym.

As I mentioned in the entry On Twitch, Failure is Your Friend, allowing yourself to make mistakes on stream, scrap ideas, try new ones, and work out kinks is an important part of making a stream better. By doing this, you can deal with problems as they arise without added pressure. What if the gym doesn’t allow you to film? What if the internet there keeps cutting out? What if, after a few episodes, you realize you don’t like being filmed while working out? By simply starting to do broadcasts from the gym, and having them happen to occur five times a week, you’re forming a habit while also learning to tackle several important troubleshooting factors. Then once you’ve built up the experience in this new stream type, learned what does and doesn’t work, and most importantly, have decided whether you enjoy doing this new show in general, you can safely announce it without loss of motivation. Because you’ve already got a running start.


This idea of getting up to running speed with a new stream idea before announcing it has helped me just as much three years into my channel as when I first started. I truly believe this is a universal piece of insight, and I highly encourage you to try it with your next big idea. The audience doesn’t need to hear a big pitch and announcement for every one of your new concepts before it’s ever been tested. They can get just as excited to learn that a new stream type they’ve been seeing from you will now become a channel fixture. And of course, this will do wonders to take pressure off you as the streamer, and help keep you motivated through the entire process. It’s hard enough to build new habits without creating extra commitments. So why not get a running start before committing to new things on your streams?

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