Friday, November 12, 2021

Three Steps to Start Streaming

Are you just now starting out on Twitch? Maybe you’ve been streaming for a while and you want to rethink your content. Either way, what’s the best way to decide what kinds of shows to produce? It’s a difficult question- one that I’ve personally struggled with many times throughout my life, on my current channel and the ones I’ve worked on before it. But over the years, my views on the matter have gotten simpler and simpler. I eventually realized there’s really only one important thing at the core of any Twitch channel, from which everything else radiates. And in this entry, we’ll explore that philosophy. No matter what kind of content you’re interested in making, this three-step method should be able to help you flesh it out. 


Let your interests live at the center of your streams.
The power in my method stems from the order in which it’s presented. So pay attention that you execute the three steps I’m about to describe
in sequence. Don’t skip around, or you’ll be missing the point of the exercise. If you’re currently at home, or in a place where you can safely keep notes, you can follow along with these steps by filling out your own answers as you go. Maybe even pause and take some time after each to really give it some thought. Ready? 

Step One: What do you enjoy doing?
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many content creators don’t begin with this simple question. Even apart from the idea of Twitch streaming, what is it you truly love to do? Maybe playing a certain game, or a particular genre of games, is your favorite thing in the world. Or maybe you like building model airplanes. It’s possible you enjoy watching movies, hiking, or working out at the gym. Every one of us has all sorts of interests. Yes, video games may be what the majority of Twitch channels are focused on, but that doesn’t mean your stream has to do that to the exclusion of everything else. Whether you actually stream your Sunday hikes, show photos from your hikes on stream, or just incorporate discussions about hiking into your conversations with chat, there are many ways that your interests can play a part in your content offering. 

Step Two: What would you want to watch? Is there a particular kind of Twitch stream you personally would like to see? Maybe you already watch Twitch streams and you can say what kind of shows you gravitate toward. This doesn’t only apply to Twitch however- you can incorporate all kinds of media into this: YouTube, movies and TV, even books you read and podcasts you listen to. Any piece of content you consume can offer insight to what you might be interested in making. Try not to copy other things (for example, if you want to stream Fortnite, don’t just make a duplicate of someone else’s Fortnite stream) but you can pull in all your various influences to enhance aspects of what you produce. For more ideas on how to open your mind to all the influences around you, see the entry titled To Improve Your Twitch, Get Inspired by Everything. After completing these two steps, you should begin streaming on Twitch. After you’ve been streaming for a few weeks or months, you’ll arrive at:

Step Three: What do others like or dislike about your content? Now that you’ve been producing your shows for a while, you may begin to notice what draws people in or drives them away during your shows. In a few past entries, I’ve dealt with identifying these factors, as well as the things that we may mistakenly think are producing results. All in all though, you will likely find that you don’t need to do much during this step. People naturally gravitate toward content creators who are passionate about what they do. And no matter how obscure your interests are, you can bet that there are scores of other people out there who share that same love. As I’ve spoken about in entries like Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself on Stream, ‘fitting in’ with other Twitch streams is not what will make your channel work- it’s standing out. 


You’ll notice a very conspicuous factor in the three steps above: they require that you ignore everyone else’s interests and opinions except your own before you begin streaming. I believe this is the best way to create any piece of content. When you begin with the things that actually interest you, you’ll not only be happier streaming today, but you’ll be happy streaming two years from today. If you strive to achieve the opposite, by first targeting what others want to see, and then squeezing in the concept of enjoyment as a secondary concern, it can’t last. You may be excited now because it’s a new project and you have a boost of energy, but you won’t want to stick with it when times get tough. 

The spice must flow. 

You can apply this same concept to any creative endeavor. Denis Villeneuve, director of the excellent 2021 film adaptation of ‘Dune,’ grew up reading the book. When discussing his thoughts on making it into a new movie, he said, “I was aware that there are millions of hardcore fans of the book out there, but I took it upon my shoulders to deal with the one that I was most afraid of, which is me.” In the entry Stream How You Want, I spoke about how Bob Dylan, at the height of his career, suddenly switched musical styles from acoustic folk songs to harder electric rock. Despite persistent hatred from his longtime fans, he continued pursuing this new musical avenue that he was interested in, which ultimately produced some of his best work. In The War of Art, an excellent book that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone trying to create anything, Steven Pressfield paraphrases Robert McKee: “A hack[...] is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn't ask himself what's in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.” 

As you can see, this same philosophy keeps coming up among every creative discipline. It may seem easier to begin your project by targeting what will garner the greatest success, but that shortcut only leads to a dead end. As your channel gets larger, you’ll only be doing more of this thing you don’t fully enjoy. It’s better to begin with what you love, and let everything grow from there. Then you’ll always have your passion at the center of what you’re doing. And if you find you no longer enjoy it, you can always look back to that passion and steer yourself in the right direction again. Great things happen when your streams begin by catering to just one person: yourself. 

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