Monday, October 10, 2022

Make Bad Streams to Make Good Streams

Many prospective Twitch streamers are afraid to start on their channels. And many experienced streamers are afraid to start doing something they haven’t tried before. There are any number of reasons this might occur for people, but one of the biggest ones is simple: nobody likes to be perceived as an amateur. We don’t want to put out content that doesn’t look polished, content that doesn’t command respect and admiration from those watching. And that fear of showing weakness prevents countless hopefuls from ever setting off on their journeys. 

The subject of starting is very important to me. We all have to start after all, and because I personally branch out into so many different disciplines on stream, I end up returning to the starting line quite often. For this reason, I try very hard in this resource to help others who also want to get started, whether on their thousandth broadcast but the first in a new style, or their first broadcast of all time. Every time I come up with a new way to shed light on this subject, I try to cover it again, in the hopes that this new perspective might help one more person take the plunge. After all (and be honest), have you ever ignored previous entries urging you to begin, only to keep listening to the podcast without a single stream under your belt? Whether you're a complete beginner or an expert, consider whether there’s something you want to start doing on your channel. Take this chance to promise to yourself that you’ll begin doing it today. 


The castle comes later.

There’s a quote which circulates around filmmaker websites attributed to the comedian-turned-Oscar-winning screenwriter Jordan Peele, about his writing process. I can’t find evidence of where he originally said it, but it’s a powerful lesson either way. It states, “When I’m writing the first draft I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” I think this quote is so profound, because it sheds light on a part of the creative process that we all like to glaze over. Essentially, in order to create something great, it’s necessary that we first make something lousy. It’s very rare that we hear much about the making of any project where the creator was simply putting down thoughts they
knew were terrible, and wouldn’t make it to the final draft. But they wrote them down and fleshed them out anyway, because as a professional, they knew this ‘ugly stage’ was an important part of the process. 

Steven Pressfield, in his excellent book The War of Art, discusses this idea right in the opening chapter. He sits down every day to write for four hours. And about those four hours, he has this to say: “How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is that I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got.” Pressfield, like a true pro, knows that creating greatness requires diligence, not excellence. The implication in this passage is that, if he had thought too hard about what he wrote that day, he’d likely be mortified by how bad it was. Better to keep trudging on, and sort everything out once the whole draft is done. 

Many aspiring creatives become disheartened by the actual process of creating. They don’t want to go through this important stage, where everything they make is horrible and they ask themselves day in and day out whether they should just give up. Rather than building like a sand castle, many aspiring creatives would rather build their projects like an inkjet printer. A printed page, just like a sand castle, is built slowly from the bottom up, but the difference is that every mark made by a printer is perfectly representative of the final product. There’s no revision, no ugly stage, only the slow revealing of what is essentially already there. People want to create this way because they can’t bear the mental strain and embarrassment of producing something less-than-perfect, even in service to eventually making something excellent. The artist wants a sketchbook where every page looks perfectly composed and Instagram-worthy, the composer wants to write sheet music with no corrections, and the screenwriter wants a perfectly planned three-act story to pour out of their pen. Unfortunately, this is not how the creative process works. You will never create something great this way. Neither will I. Greatness requires getting one’s hands dirty, piling up wet, muddy sand, without concern for what that pile looks like, before we can start building the castle and making it look amazing. The sooner we’re able to accept that, the sooner we can truly begin. 


Writers face personal demons in many 
different ways. 

Streaming on Twitch has one distinct advantage over many other creative processes: every time you make a draft, it’s broadcast live on the internet. Now, this may be a scary prospect for many beginners- after all, who wants to show their imperfections to others? But consider the alternative. The novelist could be working on drafts for years, alone with only their own thoughts and doubts as company, before ever having a version finished enough to show others. As a Twitch streamer, you may have a hard time getting yourself to go live in the first place, but after a stream is over, you can at least take comfort in having produced something. Of course, it’s not going to be everything you’d hoped for- it’ll be more akin to broadcasting the first part of a writer’s first draft. But no matter how good or bad the stream was, the simple act of finishing a stream means you will have already taken a step toward greatness. 

In the beginning, you’re merely shoveling sand onto your Twitch channel. Every broadcast you do during that time will be less-than-perfect in some way. There's no way to avoid that. But you’ll be gaining valuable experience every time you go live, and you’ll be closer to eventually shaping your channel into what it’s destined to become. So if you’re afraid to begin your streaming project, don’t think about whether it’s going to be good or bad. Just commit the time, and produce. You’re only shoveling sand, anyway. The castle comes later. 

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