Let’s Talk About TwitchCon 2018

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I had one of the most magical weekends of my life, just recently.

I was at TwitchCon from October 26th til the 28th, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how much the weekend meant to me. I’m going to try, but it’s going to feel like really expressive word vomit, because there’s just so much to say, and so many emotions that just want to push it all out.

I wouldn’t say I was nervous about attending this convention, but I was curious about whether or not I’d fall into some socially anxious moments. I had been to comic book conventions before, but that was with friends, and there wasn’t the added pressure of knowing I’d meet a ton of internet friends. Here, I knew I’d be meeting a ton of internet friends, as well as having the potential of people recognizing me from my Twitch channel. Sure, I’m not super well-known, but the potential was there, and my little introverted self wasn’t sure just how much social energy I could burn before my body decided it would be done.

When I arrived on Thursday to pick up my badge, I definitely needed a moment to process it all. So many people were hanging out in front of the convention center on Day 0 of TwitchCon, and a few people recognized me and came up to say hi, so all of it was a lot to take in. I’m not sure if it was the flight over here already making me a bit tired, which had already included me meeting two people I’ve gotten to know a bit through Twitch, plus a very popular Twitch streamer who makes a VERY comfortable living off of his channel (we’ll get to that, later), combined with the fact that I hadn’t eaten in quite a while, but seeing the sheer size of what this event would be left me shook. Don’t get me wrong, I was still excited, but I was nervous about whether or not I could keep up with the energy of it all.

Luckily, Thursday night kind of put it into perspective…when one of my favorite Twitch streamers shouted at me from a distance while I had chicken shawarma goop all over my face.

I hadn’t eaten for about 7 hours at that point, so I was in desperate need of some food. The person I was hanging out with originally was super tired from getting on an early flight to San Jose, so he opted to go to his hotel and rest while I went to go hang out with some fellow LGBTQIA+ streamers who invited me to dinner and drinks. I didn’t see them in the restaurant I was supposed to meet them at yet, so I went next door to a pretty cool market where they had several restaurants to get some food. Though I felt a tad strange about eating alone at an event where I felt like I had plenty of people to hang out with, I was starving, and I was going to be a useless shell of a human if I didn’t eat something soon.

I sat outside, eating this delicious chicken shawarma wrap, catching up on some social media, when I heard Negaoryx scream my name from the other end of the outdoor area we were in.

Though it wasn’t the first time I had been recognized that day, it was the first time someone recognized me in dim lighting from like, fifty feet away. I looked up to see that it was her, and thought “gurl you better wipe this chicken shawarma mess off your face right this very moment!” We hugged and I apologized for possibly having food on my face (which was probably unnoticeable, anyway), which I now realize is a dumb thing to apologize for, since chicken shawarma wraps tend to leave residue. But of course, she was sweet and fun and kind of the best, and meeting with her couldn’t have come at a better time.

I was terrified that the LGBTQIA+ streamers I was about to meet would think I’m much less cool than I seem on my Twitch channel, so my social anxiety was already on the rise. I think I brought up the fact that I had walked around in circles a few times because I didn’t see the group I was supposed to be meeting yet, so I settled for food by myself until I knew where they were, and I’m sure it became apparent to her that I was in my head about the event. She had to go meet a group as well, so she told me not to be afraid to approach her if I ever saw her around the convention, and I think something else about trying to let the social anxiety go, and then she glided off in her magical gown.

No seriously, it was magical:

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Me, hopefully with no more chicken shawarma goop on my face, and Negaoryx, real life fantastical sorceress

After feeling a bit renewed from eating and meeting someone I looked up to quite a bit, I made my way over to the restaurant where I met up with a bunch of streamers I admired…and another one of my favorites, a lovely drag queen named Deere. Like, the world just couldn’t give me a break from meeting amazing, talented people who give me inspiration? But that was the thing; that’s just what TwitchCon is. It’s meeting people you look up to time and time again, and though it’s always both exciting and a little bit anxiety-inducing, I think you just get accustomed to the anxiety part to the point where it doesn’t feel like it’s there, anymore (well, depending on who you are).

We had a great time, and though it took me a bit to open up, I was eventually able to interact with them in the same way I do with any other friends. I surprised myself with how naturally I was able to open up to them. It’s not necessarily that I have trouble opening up to people, it’s just that I have a hard time opening up to several people, in groups, multiple times per day. Introversion is fun, y’all! Though I do think our innate shared experiences of being queer gave us that base-level understanding with one another, so being able to open up to them really isn’t all that surprising, looking back on it.

I wouldn’t say that TwitchCon turned me into an extrovert, but it definitely helped me realize just how far I can push myself, socially. Because during the rest of the event, I found it so easy to approach people I knew on the internet, but was just meeting for the first time. Maybe it was because there was some sense of familiarity there already, due to us watching each others’ live streams, but it was so nice to feel like I so easily got along with everyone I met.

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The event itself was just so incredible, too. It felt like a bustling, chaotic home away from home. There was so much on the expo floor that related to gaming, streaming, and interests adjacent to those. There was also an artist’s alley, much like there is at most conventions like this one, where artists (who are also Twitch streamers) displayed and sold their creations.

There were several booths on the expo floor where you could play demos for games that were already out, or that would soon be released. There were also so many panels for improving your stream quality, how to be a better Twitch community member, tips on how to be a good community leader, and just about anything that could appeal to your interests as someone on a live-streaming platform. My personal favorite panel was the one on mental health and streaming, which had so much good information on creating content while also being kind to yourself. My biggest take-aways from that panel were that comparing yourself to avoid comparing yourself to others, focus on the good things you’re doing with your own channel, and know when to take breaks. Twitch is definitely its own thing when it comes to being a content creator, but it definitely had some amazing take-aways for anyone who’s in the creative world.

The other two panels that I went to that were also amazing were The Gayest Panel at TwitchCon (I mean like, of course I went to that one) and one on the art of makeup on Twitch, which was super cool to see as someone who doesn’t necessarily participate in makeup (though the panel sparked some interest in possibly experimenting with it? Who knows!) The Gayest Panel was amazing to see as a fellow queer streamer, knowing that we’re all linked through these similar experiences on the platform. Hearing their ideas on how they think queer presence on the platform will grow and move forward was also inspiring, mostly to confirm that me being overwhelmingly gay on stream is a good choice.

The makeup panel was also great, as it was fascinating to hear insight from people who use the same platform that I do for a different kind of creative medium. I’ve always been fascinated with makeup as an art form, but never have I really heard that kind of insight from people who do it so regularly as their means of entertaining others.

Seriously, y’all. TwitchCon has it all, when it comes to what you can get out of it.

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Me lookin’ kinda sleepy, Tolthe, RawVox120, Dirty_Meeper

Though the events at the convention itself were great, my ultimate goal was to connect with the people. I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitch, and there was something so magical about getting to see them all in person. There was a level of bonding we were able to achieve that, sure, can be possible on the Internet, but the quality definitely improves faster with those face-to-face interactions. And oh geez, did I have so many of these quality-improving moments when I was there. There were so many people I was excited to see, so many people I formed deeper bonds with, and so many people I hugged! Seriously! I’ve never been hugged so much in my whole life, and it was magical.

The thing about TwitchCon is that most of us are already so familiar with one another. We watch people do their live streams, which yes, can sometimes be a bit fabricated, exaggerated, or rehearsed when it comes to personalities, but ultimately, shows us a mostly unfiltered view of who they are. The fact that you can interact with the streamer directly through chat offers that direct line of communication, which has given us the sense that we’ve already come to know these people that we’ll be seeing at the convention. This was something I was initially a little nervous about, knowing I would be meeting so many people I had already talked to several times before, and feeling like they may not feel as good about my face-to-face interactions with them. Luckily, pretty much every meeting felt like a reunion with an old friend, so I was instantly more at ease with each time it happened.

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DragTrashly, ChaniChico, Deere, Angelxoxo, Cornfllake, PoppusT, Kevin, Kisos_tho, me being really heckin’ happy with all these rad queer streamers

I also met so many new people at TwitchCon, which wasn’t necessarily something I anticipated, but definitely had in the back of my head as a possibility. Even on the plane over to San Jose, I ended up sitting next to a streamer named Timmac, who has over 75k and is making more than a comfortable living through his channel, according to the Charlotte Observer. To those who aren’t super aware of how Twitch works, that’s an incredible feat! Some people stream for years and never have that kind of income from it, or even gain the viewership that would be able to yield that kind of revenue. When I saw this article, I realized I was sitting next to someone who had just the right combination of hard work and talent. Though I wasn’t aware of him until that day, it was amazing to get to meet him, and get to know him without the Twitch lens. Sure, we talked about being a streamer here and there, but it was really cool just to see who we was as a person before even seeing his channel.

Though I got a solid hour and a half with him, every other time I met a streamer for the first time was just as meaningful, as it felt like it was the beginning of a blossoming friendship. I don’t like to say that getting to know a streamer through Twitch is a less genuine way of getting to know them, but with all of the bells and whistles of the platform getting in the way, it can be hard to get a deeper sense of someone’s sense of self. They can be as authentic as possible on a livestream, but it doesn’t beat the magic of getting to talk with them in person.

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Left to Right: Minh Vogue, Mollydoesathing, me with a heckin’ cute panda, Sevendash, BotoCollin, Supercaliy, SRI_Deca, JoeyMarie

I knew the convention itself would be fun, but it was always about the people, for me. It was always about getting to see the faces of people who have supported me, the people who I’ve gained inspiration from, and the people whom I have yet to be inspired by. Not only that, but it was a mixture of strange and rewarding to have people recognize me, want to chat with me for a bit, and take a selfie with me. I don’t think we often realize what kind of influence we have as creators, so having people be so excited to see me was so surreal. The space I take up on Twitch can sometimes feel so small, but it’s moments like those that I realize the impact can be much bigger. I think being around this excitement helped center my thoughts around what my channel is serving on the platform, rather than how it exists compared to others. It didn’t feel like there was room to compare myself when there was so much kindness and support in that convention center.

Because of how much this trip impacted me, I’ve decided it’s no longer a trip I can afford to miss. The amount of inspiration and kindness at this convention is something I can’t miss out on, now that I know it’s there. It’s already sad, thinking that I might not see the people I met there for another year, so I don’t want to extend that for an extra year by any means.

Though every single person I met and interacted with was absolutely exceptional, I especially want to thank all of the queer streamers I met for all of the fun memories. I had already felt such a connection by interacting with them via Twitch, but getting to meet so many that I admire was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had, to this day. I have never seen a group of people be more kind and loving toward each other, and I think as long as we stick together and lift each other up on this platform, we can do anything we set our minds to. Don’t @ me for sounding so cheesy. I know I sound like an after school special, but let me be in my feelings! I deserve to get sappy!

Thanks for the memories, TwitchCon. Thanks for the renewed spirit, for impacting my life in the most unique way, and for sending me home with a full heart. I’ll be back, and next time, it won’t be with the looming sense of anxiety, but with the confidence that it will be just as amazing, or even more so, than the year before.

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(Want to see even more photos from the event? Check out my Instagram!)

Variety is Spicier Than You Think

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Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

I’m gonna sound like the biggest nerd, but I’m pretty sure that most people already think I am, so there’s really no going back, now.

I had this idea to pan fry some sweet potatoes as a side dish for dinner, this week. A novel idea for me, as this would be the first time I ever bought fresh sweet potatoes to cook. A lot of my side dishes will include some sort of grain (usually brown rice or quinoa) and a vegetable, so I get in this cycle of eating the same meal archetypes all the time. However, I recently remembered that, oh hey! I like sweet potatoes when they’re a little salty and crispy, so why not make my own sweet potatoes? I usually get sweet potato fries because they’re so easy to just throw in the oven, but there’s like, added sugar and stuff and I’m trying to limit the amount of processed food I eat, so this seemed like the next best thing. A little more work, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Now, the sweet potatoes are sitting in my kitchen, and I’m getting so damn excited to cook them. Like, I’m unrealistically excited to dice them up, add some salt (and maybe some rosemary), and cook them in a pan. Yeah, total nerd.

It seems like such a simple thing to get excited about, but it’s better than, y’know, not being excited about something, right? Like, here’s this nerd on the internet rambling about how he’s really excited to cook some sweet potatoes, and maybe you might think it’s weird or annoying that he’s rambling about his pan-fried sweet potatoes, but certainly it’s better than hearing about why he’s sad all of the time. Not saying that he’s necessarily sad, but maybe he’s just had a hard time finding that spice in his life. Maybe a few sweet potatoes are what he needs to remind himself to change things up, every so often. 

I think we can find ourselves doing the same things over and over, not really inspiring ourselves to try new things. Parents encourage their kids to try new things not just to make sure they actually eat a vegetable, but also to add variety and excitement to their food options. Meanwhile, as adults, we can still find ourselves eating the same things, going to the same restaurants, taking the same trips, doing the same activities with friends; all of these things can be fulfilling, but sometimes it adds some excitement to know that you’re about to try something new. As long as it’s a new thing that gets you excited, that could be all you need to add some of that spicy variety to your life.

Go to a new coffee shop to get work done. Meet your best friends at a restaurant none of you have tried, before. Try a new vegetable. Try a new dessert. Try baking a new dessert (even if you think you’re terrible at it, you could surprise yourself). Explore a new city in your state. Do something you’ve never done before, but maybe have always wanted to.

Just get out of that zone of familiarity and try something new. Even if it’s the most minuscule thing you can think of, and as long as it’s bringing that excitement of trying something new, get into it. Do that thing. Even if it’s just buying some sweet potatoes and throwing them in a pan, start changing things up on regular basis. Give yourself things to get excited about.

The Finite New Year’s Resolution: Does it Work?

2018 is here, everyone! So it’s that time of year where we’re trying to tell ourselves that we’re going to get things done in the new year. We’re setting goals for ourselves that we all mean to work on, but…you know, might forget about in the next month or two. We have this newfound resolve to turn our lives in the right direction, and honestly, that’s amazing. However, whenever I hear people talking about “resolutions,” I can’t help but feel like that sounds like they’re trying to reach their final form in the span of a year. Rather than making a resolution with a finite end, I think habit-forming resolutions that turn into long-term change work better for setting us up for success. 

I’m at a point in my life where I want to put forth all of my energy into developing my writing career, to the point where I’m trying to push myself to crank out a novel/novella (a shorter novel, for those who just asked “a Spanish soap opera?” in their head.) So when people have been asking me what my new year’s resolution is, I’ve been saying “to publish a novel.” However, a novel is a huge thing to write, edit, and get published all in the span of the year. Will I actually complete all of that before December 31st, 2018? As long as one or both of the two insane world leaders don’t decide to push the button for the nukes, then sure! It’s possible. A more attainable goal that would work both in the short-term and the long-term would be to commit to working on a novel/novella every day (or several times a week), and it would create the good habits in me that would get me closer to publishing a novel in 2018. There are outside aspects that could interfere with the finite goal of publishing a novel, but it’s more feasible, and it would create more of a trajectory for success if I created the habit of working on a novel throughout the week. It’s not to say that publishing a novel this year would be too lofty, but rather, getting myself in the routine of putting my energy into this kind of writing project is something I have way more control over.

We often see these finite resolutions in the form of body image, diet, and career success, and they’re usually a be-all end-all sort of deal. It’s usually something like “I want to lose X amount of weight,” or “I want to get a promotion,” and while those are good goals to have, forming good habits that get you beyond those goals would be even better. If you say “I want to eat better and go to the gym more,” you can set yourself up to create a plan and schedule for a weight loss goal to happen beyond your expectations. If you say “I want to be more proactive at work and contribute more ideas,” then you’ll set yourself up to have these useful skills no matter where you’re trying to get a promotion. Instead of making a resolution to go straight to the finish line before the year is up, you set yourself up for more success by focusing on the part of the track that you still have to run on. 

I’m not saying that goals with finite ends are counter-productive, because I think they can still help us get started on achieving great things. I think me saying that I want to publish a novel in 2018 is a good way to get me started on a big writing project, but if I don’t actually finish said project in the upcoming year, I’ll look back on it with some disappointment. I’ll feel more stressed about trying to get it done rather than equipping myself with the ability to work consistently on something that I’m passionate about. I think that committing to working on the skills that will help with publishing a novel would set me up more for success in 2018, because while publishing a novel would be a dream come true, it’s a dream I’d want to come true beyond 2018, as well. Making the goal to chip away at a novel more often in 2018 will form the novel-creating habits I need to be successful, and will make me feel more accomplished as I look back on the year in full, whether I end up publishing it or not. Once I pick up the momentum from working on novels (or even short stories) more this year, it’ll be easier to crank more out as the years go on. At least, that’s what I’m thinking will happen.

Goals are what keep us going. If we didn’t have something to work toward, life would be pretty boring. However, making goals with a finite end, as opposed to making resolutions to work on lasting change, set us up to only work hard until that goal is reached. Making those finite goals can definitely help those who need to see an end point to whatever they’re working on, but I think making smaller goals that will lead up to those bigger, more distant goals is what will drive the momentum for us to succeed in our endeavors.

What resolutions have you made for the year? Let’s talk about them in the comments!

Do I Even Know My Protagonist?

 

So we’re more than halfway into the National Novel Writing Month adventure, and though my progress has been much slower than I anticipated, I’m still chugging along at a speed I’m pretty happy with. I recently passed the 10,000 word mark, which most of the participants are WELL over, by now. I, however, have been trying as hard as I can to not beat myself up about it. I’ve been doing as much as I can whenever I can do it, and that’s definitely what matters most! Now if only I can lock myself away in a cozy café (like the one above) and tell the world to stop bothering me so I can reach this 50,000 word goal, that would be pretty great.

One thing I’ve been noticing as I’ve gotten deeper into writing this novel is…I don’t think I really know my main character as much as I thought I did. This isn’t a new phenomenon in my world of writing. I had a novel I started where the main character must have had like, ten mood swings, five personality changes, and was both terrified and apathetic at the same time. I mean, I knew who he was, and what he was supposed to go through. I can’t quite grasp why I felt like he needed to be a completely different person on every different page, but for some reason, that’s how it subconsciously (and, well, consciously) happened. 

I feel it happening again in this story, but not quite to the same degree. I keep making choices for Leo (the protagonist in my current novel) that make me have to stop, take a few moments, and think “is that something he would actually do?” It becomes difficult, because I desperately try to convince myself that the choice is within his personality. It’s hard because I start conflating what needs to happen for the story to progress with what my protagonist would do in the situations I put him in. So as the story progresses, I’m seeing that I could, yet again, have a character that goes through a few different personality changes that make absolutely no sense.

Despite this insecurity about my protagonist, I don’t think this is a rare problem. Despite all the planning you might do for the personalities of your characters, you could always get stumped by the situations that they end up in. It’s very possible that you could know your character inside and out, but once they come face-to-face with say, an abusive ex who gave them all kinds of seemingly irreversible trauma, it’s hard to gauge what they would truly do in that moment. Shoot, it’s hard to know what I’d even do if I came face-to-face with a guy who simply broke my heart; I can understand not knowing what a fictional character would do in a much more intense situation. 

Just like most things in life, we learn through experience. You can be as intensive as possible during the prep-work of writing a short story, novel, etc., but still get taken aback when you’re now putting your characters into uncharted territory. The thing is: that’s what first drafts are for. We’re not writing these to be published immediately after they’re created, and all that we wrote for these characters isn’t useless or a waste of time. It’s us taking the time to learn about them as we go, to see what works best for their personalities as we take them through the story. Sure, we may end up deleting that moment where the main character told off his ex boyfriend because we wanted him to have a “hero” moment to kick off the story, despite him starting off as a generally timid person, but that doesn’t make the writing we did for that scene completely useless. It was a necessary step to get a feel for whether or not it would actually work, and for us to work with it, molding it into something within the realm of the world we created.

We don’t have to know everything about the novel as we’re writing it; it’ll develop itself as we continue to create it. Though this will make the editing process pretty daunting, at least we go into it with a better sense of who are characters are, the environment they’re interacting with, and the kind of story you want your novel to tell.