When running a Twitch channel, it’s difficult to track all the moving parts. Yes, there are statistics you can look at, but these can only tell you very external things. Who watched your show? How many times did they comment? Which games perform best? These are all fine things to keep track of, but they’re only one small part of the bigger picture. What’s the best way to gauge your personal feelings about your channel as you go along? In earlier entries like Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day, I helped you keep a checklist of large and small scale fixes you want to make on your channel. This is a very important step toward keeping your content polished and fresh. But as I continued streaming, I realized that it was just as important to keep track of my progress on an even broader scale. In this entry, I’ll help you regularly take time to chronicle your channel’s progress.
➢ FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
Everything is scarier when it's out of sight.
If you’ve been following The Twitch Playbook so far, you’ll know that I’m a very big fan of quantifying things. Wherever possible, I make sure nothing on my channel is left to chance. My daily schedule is neatly laid out on a calendar, my stream issues are all written onto a checklist, and my pre-show setup routine is the exact same every time. The way I see it, tasks become much easier when you shed light on them. When you don’t write things down, they have power over you, because everything is more daunting when it can’t be seen. That’s why horror movies are always scariest before you see the monster. At that point, the creature could be anywhere, at any time. Once it’s on screen, it might be gross, and it might be violent, but it’s never as scary as your mind made it out to be while it was lurking somewhere in the shadows. This same phenomenon happens when you leave all your ideas and experiences about streaming in your head. You can’t really see the big picture, and that makes it easy to make the same mistakes over and over again. When you write things down and specifically define what they are, suddenly you’re on the offensive. Like the xenomorph in ALIEN or the shark in JAWS, your problems can still be formidable when fully visible in the spotlight, but they’re nowhere near as frightening.
Chronicling your progress doesn’t merely involve jotting down fixes though. It’s more of an overall snapshot of where your head is at, during a specific moment in time. Which things do you like about your recent streams? What do you think you need to work on? Which moments stick out most vividly? If you take a little bit of time every once in a while to put down your thoughts on your channel’s progress, you’ll soon realize that it’s more than just a time capsule. It’s an active learning experience.
➢ TEACH YOURSELF ABOUT STREAMING
It’s funny how that works. People usually don’t write because they think they have nothing to say. But what you quickly realize when you start doing it, is that you will begin to have things to say because you write. By pushing myself each week to go into detail about the things I’ve learned throughout my journey, I suddenly begin to create a clearer picture of them even for myself. You’ve probably noticed that I often make an entry about a subject, and then return to that subject several weeks later to go into more specific detail. This is often because I only realize new things about that subject by having written about it in the first place. Even though I knew something intuitively to some degree, I will only start to truly understand it when I’ve put it into words. I might see how something I did two years ago relates to something I’m doing now. Or how the many iterations of a stream concept contributed to its ultimate success. I can even gain a concrete understanding of my own viewpoints on chat interaction, where before there was only a vague outline. With each Twitch Playbook entry, I end up learning as much by writing it as you do by listening to it.
➢ PUT YOUR THOUGHTS DOWN
What you write doesn't need to be Witcher 3 length.
Just enough to get your thoughts down.
Let me be clear: you don’t need to write for 3.5 hours every week like I do, and you certainly don’t need to publish what you write. These compositions can be as tightly written or as loose as you want. They can be long or short. They don’t need to be seen by anyone but you. The act of committing your mind to writing it is where you’ll gain the real benefits.
Of course, when writing anything, it’s often very hard to know where to begin. So if you’re having trouble starting the chronicling process, try using this template. Resolve to sit down once each week, for just ten minutes. It can be during your Friday lunch break, immediately after one of your streams, or on a Sunday before starting the work week. As long as you stick to doing it once every week. And when you sit down to write, answer these three questions:
What about your streams this week went particularly well?
What’s an example of something that went wrong this week?
Describe one interesting moment that happened on stream this week. It can be good, bad, funny, exciting, or anything else.
And that’s it. You don’t need to write with style, proper grammar or correct spelling. Just write down three little stories about your streams this past week. If you’re able to stick to that regimen, you’ll begin to see your channel from a broader perspective. You’ll find that you’re able to see the mechanics of your stream, which weren’t clear before. You’ll have a much easier time identifying what needs to be changed about your shows by being honest with yourself in writing. And by praising your strong points, you’ll have more self-confidence about all the things you produce.
➢ WRITING AT ANY SCALE
Chronicling your progress sounds too simple to actually work, but I can say it is a huge help. You may think that spending only 10 minutes a week won’t bring the benefits I get from the 200+ I spend writing this show, but I’ve had great success in other endeavors with smaller time commitments as well. In my language learning journey, any time I have a conversation entirely in Japanese, whether it’s a random encounter in person or through a scheduled Zoom call, I take ten minutes afterwards to write down on a private Google Document what I thought went well, what went badly, and what I thought was an interesting moment. Sound familiar? It really works! It’s helped me immensely to boost my confidence in Japanese conversation, and I immediately know what I need to focus on the next time. So however long you spend at your writing desk, try chronicling your Twitch progress in the way you’re most comfortable with. You might just find that the best person to teach you… is you.