Saturday, July 2, 2022

Streaming When Plans Go Awry

Throughout The Twitch Playbook, I’ve talked about the many ways you might reach a roadblock in making your streams. Many of these are mental, but some are completely out of your control. It’s important however, not to let the unpredictability of life prevent you from achieving your goals. In this entry we’re going to explore one of the tougher scenarios I’ve faced in my own content creation journey: being quarantined away from home due to Covid. We’ll look at the challenges I faced, and the compromises I made in order to ensure I didn’t let the flame of my content die out. 

First, let me clarify a few things before jumping in. I’ll be describing how I powered through my problem and got my work done on my own terms, despite being sick. However, I was lucky enough not to get very seriously ill after testing positive. This entry is not a way of minimizing the difficulty or danger of sickness in any form. We’re here to talk about the scheduling challenge that being quarantined away from home created. The virus itself does not come into play in this entry. If you feel sick, you should seek medical attention, and when you’re not sick you should take whatever precautions are required where you live. Stay safe, everybody! 


It was the most wonderful time of the year. I had flown from LA to New Jersey to stay with my parents during the holiday season, and we were excited to host our big yearly party for friends, attend some others, and then see our relatives during Christmas and the new year. In December of 2021 however, this just wasn’t meant to be. Everyone around the country had the same idea, and ended up spreading a lot more than just good cheer. When the number of cases kept rising, my family decided to be responsible and cancel all our party plans, instead opting to do a small Zoom call. I had flown two and a half thousand miles to do another holiday over the computer screen, but at least I was with my immediate family at my parents’ house, and I was happy not to be part of the larger problem. 

Since I'd be away from home, I couldn't
stream video games, but I had a 
backup plan in place. 

Unfortunately, due to a weird ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ scenario which made its way to one of my family members, a few of us got sick anyway. As I mentioned, I was lucky not to be badly affected by the illness, but this all occurred right before I was scheduled to fly home, so I was forced to extend my stay. I ended up being in New Jersey for almost an extra two weeks while I waited for the virus to run its course, and in that time you could imagine how some things about my content might be thrown off. Since I wasn’t going to be home, I needed to have some kind of stream I could do consistently, and in my then-weakened state. I was fortunate to have already come up with the art-making shows that I’ve mentioned in other entries, so those were perfect for this scenario. I could stuff a tissue in my nose, draw a few pictures on my iPad, finish the show and go to sleep. I didn’t need to go anywhere or exert a lot of energy. However, if I had been planning to do IRL streams where I would walk around town during my stay, it would have required a bit more strategizing to come up with a lower-impact show I could do while quarantined. That’s why it’s always useful to have some alternate stream ideas in your back pocket. You never know when you might need to use them. 

Since I had the livestreams mostly under control, the thing that actually ended up causing me the most stress during this time was The Twitch Playbook podcast. More than a week would pass before I got back to my house, where I had all my recording equipment. And because I didn’t plan to be in New Jersey for the extra time, I didn’t create enough episodes beforehand that I could release while I was away. I was faced with a real conundrum. 


As I’ve mentioned in earlier episodes, I had always structured this podcast like an audiobook, with each entry acting as a new chapter. There are section headers within each week’s episode to separate my thoughts, and everything is written and copy-edited beforehand to be as concise and entertaining as I can make it. It wasn’t necessarily the kind of podcast I had heard before, but it was one I knew I personally would want to listen to. I had always taken pride in the production value of the show, and the lessons I learned recording and editing it eventually helped me to become a narrator of actual audiobooks. But now, faced with the prospect of being away from home for an extra stretch, I had to decide between either skipping a few weeks and recording the episodes when I got back to my real setup, or coming to terms with imperfection and simply getting the work done. Keeping with my usual belief that it’s more important to be there than to be perfect, I chose to make the episodes from quarantine.

Sometimes, life (or dragons) will 
get in the way.

So it was decided. I knew the show would be lower quality in some way, but it was still my choice where I would make those concessions. Luckily, I had a project file from an old episode of the podcast on my laptop, so I could still have the usual intro, outro and other effects applied. Plus, being away from home didn’t affect my ability to write, so I could make the entry on the page just as good as any other. Really, the only thing I was lacking was a professional microphone. So I had a mission statement. I was determined that the quality of the content wouldn’t suffer from this setback, even if the presentation had to. The point of this show is to help someone understand how to stream on Twitch after all, and therefore it’s the information that matters most- not the audio’s crispness. 

Finally, I thought it would be important to let listeners know about the dip in audio quality before listening to the episode. Then, first-timers who landed on that entry would know it wasn’t always like this, and long-time followers would understand there wasn’t something wrong with their speakers. I carefully worded my addition, appended right after the episode title, to present only the basic facts. Keeping it in the audiobook style, I called it an ‘editor’s note’: 


"I’m currently away from home, so this entry will sound slightly different than others. Hope you’ll stick with me, and I hope you enjoy the episode."

It was important to me not to go into a long-winded explanation or make excuses. Yes, my situation was understandable, but I didn't want to use that as a crutch. As I’ve mentioned in entries like Don’t Apologize for Your Streams, Just Improve, long explanations, apologies and promises are nothing but empty words meant to make the speaker feel better about themselves. The best thing is always to simply do what you can, and do better next time. Therefore, this short introduction presents only what’s relevant to the listener. Yes, it’s going to sound different. But I hope they like the episode anyway. Simple and, hopefully effective.

With this small editor’s note in place, I felt the new ‘away from home’ podcast episode concept made sense. A listener could follow along without missing a beat, and I could keep making the podcast, even when life got in the way. When I got home, the show returned to its normal audio quality. I didn’t re-record the quarantine episodes- they were simply part of the canon of the podcast. A reminder of a major problem I overcame, both technically and mentally. And some of those ‘imperfect’ episodes ended up becoming personal favorites, despite their inferior audio quality! It makes me really glad that I didn't skip those weeks, in order to wait until I got back to my normal setup.


Eventually, while on a different vacation, I got quarantined overseas in Greece (a story for another entry) and was able to use this time-tested method again to continue making Twitch Playbook entries despite the unusual circumstances. You might not have the exact same problem, but I can promise that at some point, life will interfere with your content plans. It’s important then, to accept that what we make can’t always be perfect. And while life as a whole might be outside our control, there are still plenty of things we can guide in our favor. So whatever kind of content you make, don’t let an upset in your plans ruin your streak. Take out your thinking cap, conquer your ego, and come up with a solution that works for you. 

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