Friday, September 10, 2021

When in Doubt, Stream


What do you do when you’re supposed to go live on a given day, but you just can’t muster up the will to do it? You even have a pretty good excuse lined up, which you plan to tell your community in order to get yourself off the hook. In fact, the more you think about it, why should you go live today? This reason you’ve concocted seems to make more and more sense in your mind the more you think about it, until finally, you convince yourself that there’s just no way you could do your show. These kinds of snowballing thought processes are what typically stop us from creating our content, and they can be very dangerous. The longer we entertain the idea that it might be okay not to go live on a given day, the more it starts to feel normal. And if we succumb to that weakness too many times, we begin to make a habit out of missing our scheduled broadcasts. It’s important to stay vigilant, and trust our long-term goals rather than our short-term desires. If a thought begins to form about how it might be okay to skip a day, it’s usually best to just do the show anyway. 


There’s a big misconception that goes around, which can stop many people from achieving their life goals: Most people believe that following your dreams shouldn’t feel like work. This likely stems from a ‘grass is always greener’ mentality, in which we work for our entire lives in a monotonous 9-5 grind, and imagine that if we only had the opportunity to do what we loved instead, it would be the exact opposite experience. Now, it is true that there are many benefits to following a passion like Twitch streaming: it’s much more rewarding, usually more entertaining, and it’s something you can call your own. But that doesn’t mean it is entirely without the trappings of work. In addition to the added worries of building something from the ground up, you still need to show up every day, just like you would with a normal job. 

Stay on target.

The fact that nobody is faulting you for missing a day may feel like a benefit, but taking advantage of this will only ever hurt you in the end. In fact, the rigid rules and monotony of clocking in at your workplace is one of the greatest benefits you can bring to Twitch streaming. Channels don’t spring up with huge followings out of nowhere. Streamers need to create a consistency that viewers can rely on over time. This means showing up every scheduled day, whether you feel like it or not. In the entry
How to Stay Motivated About Twitch Streaming, I helped you to stay consistent by using your work schedule as a comparative measurement. It’s okay to take a day off streaming if you really, truly need it, but these should be few and very far between. Don’t let the amount of days you take off from streaming exceed the amount of days you’re allowed to take off from your 9-5 job. By thinking about it this way, you’ll maintain the discipline necessary to keep moving forward. To paraphrase the great prophet Dusty Springfield, wishin’, and hopin’, and thinkin’, and prayin’ isn’t going to get you the results you want. You have to work for the things you really care about. 


How do you actually press through and go live on those days when it feels like you don’t have enough time or energy? Here’s the answer that most people don’t want to hear: you cut corners. As I talked about in the above-mentioned entry, on some work days you might not feel great and only put in 70% of your maximum effort. You know you’re not going to be at your best, but that doesn’t stop you from showing up. The same should hold true for streaming. Don’t get overly precious about making a perfect show every time you go live. It’s always more important to be there than to be perfect. Cut the show shorter, change the time, switch to a less intensive activity, or do anything else you need to do in order to avoid cancelling the broadcast. As I mentioned in the entry Just Keep Streaming, “There's no stream length too short, no time too late or early, no scheduling excuse that should ever prevent you from streaming. All you should care about is not letting your habit lapse. Anyone can stream when it's easy for them- it's how you face a challenge that defines you.”


There’s an excellent story which appears in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, in which a university photography professor decides to grade two halves of his class on two possible criteria. The first half of the class would be graded solely based on the quantity of their photos, meaning he would literally just count the number of photos they took and give them an A if there were over 100 images, a B if there were 90, and so on. The other group was rated based on quality, meaning these students would only need to submit one single photo, but it was graded based on the composition, lighting, evocativeness, and all the other factors involved in making a great image. Now, based on the objectives of these two groups, you can imagine which half of the class submitted the more artistic and creatively striking work. 

Frank West takes a lot of bad photos,
but he keeps getting XP either way.

Or can you? Because at the end of the semester, the professor found that the group which focused on shoveling out as many photos as possible actually took all the best pictures. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. These students were out there getting their hands dirty, making mistakes and experimenting with different ideas. They were honing their photography skills every day. While the quantity group was out there taking hundreds of pictures, the quality group was merely sitting there ruminating on what makes the perfect photo, while doing no practical work. They had a lot of ideas, and only one mediocre photo to show for them at the end of the day. 

Ideas and plans are meaningless if you don’t actually put them into practice. And putting them into practice is similarly meaningless if you don’t do it regularly. If you’re having trouble deciding what game to play on a certain day, just go with whatever comes to mind. If your channel redesign isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for, use it anyway. You can always improve later. Making the wrong choice will never be as bad as making no choice. As I put it in the entry How to Avoid Streamer’s Block, “The only reason we spend time making the decision is because a decision is there to be made.” Just remove the burden of choice, go with the first thing that comes to mind, and go live. 


The more content you make, the better you will get at making it. Like with the photography students, only the content that you actually create matters. No amount of thinking or behind-the-scenes work will ever make up for real experience. So don’t let things get in the way, don’t reschedule your show, and don’t wait for perfection to strike. When in doubt, stream. 

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