Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Streaming When You're Out of Ideas

As streamers, we typically try hard to ensure that our content is staying fresh and interesting for whoever wants to watch. This means coming up with new features for our shows, new ways to engage with our audience, and all sorts of other new stream ideas. But eventually in our journeys, we all reach that dreaded point where there’s seemingly nothing left to try. What then? How do we press forward when we can’t see any promise of change in the future? From what source do we dredge up our inspiration? In this entry, we’re going to talk about streaming when you’re out of ideas. 


So you’ve stagnated. You haven’t done anything new or particularly exciting on your channel in a while, and you don’t have any plans to either. The first, and probably most important thing to remember throughout this whole experience, is that this is okay. Many of us are naturally ambitious, and it’s hard to switch off this part of our brain. But we don’t need to be going at full-speed every single day on our channels. Sometimes it’s enough to simply enjoy the ride.

And the really interesting thing? Once we rise above the need for change, that’s often when we come up with the best ideas. They say that the most effective way to remember something you’ve forgotten is to stop thinking about it. And this same kind of unconscious state can help us come up with great concepts for our Twitch channels too. It seems absurd, but oftentimes it’s the very search for new and interesting ideas that prevents us from coming up with anything new or interesting. But if you can allow yourself to switch off and fully experience what you’re doing for a while, you’ll find ideas rushing back in. 

The sea is a scary place.

Creative people have found this technique effective for ages. In the 1800’s, aspiring author
Herman Melville took a series of jobs as a sailor on merchant vessels and whaling ships. Though this would seemingly be completely unrelated to his goal, he went on to adapt these experiences into parts of his most famous stories, including Moby Dick. Throughout the 1980’s, Quentin Tarantino would watch movies insatiably. Eventually he’d go on to make movies like Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but that far-off destination was not yet anywhere in sight. While working for five years at a video store, he would consume every film he could, and talk about movies nonstop. When later asked if he went to film school, he would say, “No, I went to films.” In the excellent new documentary Moonage Daydream, the filmmakers explored how David Bowie forced himself to uproot his life and move to other countries, in order to spark new creative styles. It’s not necessarily apparent how Los Angeles, England or Berlin would have specific influences on an artist’s sound, but the prolific musician made it clear that he didn’t think too hard about it. He couldn't even identify what it was that did it. He would simply allow the city life to wash over him, and the character and texture of his surroundings would find their way into his work. Anyone familiar with Bowie’s various changes in musical style can understand just how successful that strategy ultimately was. So if you’re out of ideas, try simply living in the moment. Like for many legendary creative minds before you, you may find that ideas present themselves, without even having to seek them out. 


Normally on stream, it’s possible to simply keep going, even if ideas don’t arrive. But sometimes you’re actually forced to come up with something new. Maybe the circumstances of your life have changed. Maybe you need to use different hardware or slower internet settings. In situations like this, a new idea might be a bit more pressing. I haven’t faced anything quite this urgent on my Twitch channel, but I have experienced it in other places. Most notably, this podcast. Every week, no matter how many ideas I have, or how good I think they are, I need to come up with something to say about Twitch streaming. I’ve mentioned in entries before that I never thought this podcast would go on for as long as it has. I wrote nine episodes before releasing, so I could establish some kind of consistent tone. And in those nine episodes, I ended up covering almost everything I had to say. At that point, I couldn’t imagine reaching episode 25, let alone episode 195. Throughout these past few years making The Twitch Playbook, I’ve constantly been challenged to come up with new ideas to talk about. And it hasn’t always been easy. 

Twitch streaming is a really rich topic, and there are so many facets to it. But once I had done an entry about motivation, or gaining followers, or finding time to stream, I had crossed another major item off the list. I quickly found that I was writing myself into a corner. What else could I talk about, once I had covered all the major topics? 

Look further into the nooks and crannies 
of your streams. 

Eventually, it came to me. I didn’t always have to look for the biggest topics. I could dig deeper into ones I’d already covered. This revelation helped my writing immensely, because I was no longer constrained by the need to always find a landmark subject to write about. This podcast was ultimately about my own experiences in Twitch streaming, not a step-by-step instruction manual. I found that, the more specific I got about my own experiences, the more helpful the writing started to feel. Because it was coming from a place of really having been there. I could do an episode about streaming while traveling, knowing that I didn’t need to cover every single thing in that one episode. I could focus on the mindset in one, equipment in another, software after that, and so on. I’ve gone on to tackle the subject of finding motivation in about a dozen different entries at this point, but they (hopefully) don’t feel repetitive because each one focuses on a different aspect of overcoming that hurdle. A strategy from one of those entries that worked for me and worked for someone else might not work for you, but a strategy in a different entry might. I’m also able to reconsider ideas I’ve covered, make new entries to clarify on hazy points, or even just come up with new ways to explain a difficult concept. These are all things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I kept covering only the biggest topics. And then, the same strategies I’ve used to drill down deeper into subjects for the podcast have also greatly improved my Twitch streams. I often examine the kinds of streams I’ve been doing, and see if I can’t extrapolate on the nuggets I really like. In previous entries, I’ve explored how I went through many different styles of art streams, foreign language learning shows, IRL broadcasts and more. The evolution of all these stream concepts came about by taking small parts of my existing stream ideas and expanding them.

Sometimes, in order to come up with new ideas, we must stop thinking about coming up with new ideas. Other times, you may not realize just how many ideas are waiting to be plucked from your everyday life or existing streams. Whichever method you explore, remember that the most important thing is to keep streaming. Even if you have to go live without anything new on your channel for a while, don’t let that get you down. As long as you’re still on the air, you’re going to be just fine. 

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