Outside the Fantasy

The lessons of life outside the fantasy of our hopes and dreams

It’s been a busy month. No sooner did my book launch than I had to take a trip to Chicago to help take care of my mom after a recent surgery to remove her cancer. I’d already promised to come out and help when we got the news from my husband’s side of the family that his grandfather’s cancer was back and there was nothing they could do. We had to schedule a last minute trip down to southern Texas to say our goodbyes.

Life never makes things easy. A short hiatus from YouTube and Twitch while I got my book out turned into two solid months of no work on any of my platforms. I would do it again, though. That valuable time I was able to spend with my mom helping her recover and those precious moments with my husband’s Welo (his family’s affectionate name for his grandfather) meant so much to us.

Sometimes I think we forget the importance of family and togetherness in our constant hustle to try and make things happen. The extra long break was, in a lot of ways, absolutely horrible. We were forced to face the impending loss of a man that means so much to all of us: seeing my mom sick from 6 months of chemo and too weak to even get up from her chair on her own was heartbreaking. But despite the darkness hovering over our families, I can’t help but be thankful that we were able to be there during these hard times.

It’s never who you’re with in the good times that are meaningful: it’s the people who show up to support you when things are at their worst that make the most difference. I’m glad that, in some little way, I could be there for them. I didn’t do much. My sister was there for my mom for the 6 months of chemo that happened during the pandemic before my husband and I could get our vaccines. My husband’s uncle took on the brunt force of caring not only for his ailing father but also for his mother who had passed away the year before when we couldn’t be there. But to help where we could and how we could was meaningful in its own way.

It feels weird to be back. My little world here in my dining room, surrounded by computer screens and cameras, feels so far away from the blisteringly hot house in Texas where we danced and sang for Welo. We made food as a family, bickered, laughed, cried, and tried to make the best out of a sad reality.

My quiet home is so cognitively different from my sister’s house full of lively little girls that we had to corral away from their sick grandma. The sleepless nights listening to make sure mom didn’t fall out of bed or call for help; cleaning out the drainage tube that kept fluid from building up in her chest after the surgery; tirelessly playing the same games over and over with my 2 year old niece just so she’d stop trying to wake up her grandma: It’s like an entirely different world.

In a lot of ways, my isolated life in my little house is a fantasy. It’s everything I really want for myself, and it’s easy to see how fortunate I am to be here. Now that we’re back home and starting to get settled in, I’ve been able to get back to my normal work routine. I’m posting a series of videos on my YouTube channel (CC Writes) all about the art of writing prose. On Twitch, I’m doing hour-long writing sprints to plot out my latest book series–a magic-punk story about plague, power, and an oppressed race of faeries called Tieflings. It’s all so very calm and normal in a very abnormal way. I’m thankful for the fantasy. I’m also thankful for the family that called me outside of my fantasy for a brief time, and the reminder that not everything revolves around me and my work as a writer.

Make sure you take care of your loved ones. Step outside of your dream of a better life to live the life you have right here and now. It’s important and it’s worth it. And, as always, thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you later!

7 Steps to Better Writing Productivity

How to be a productive writer even though you’re lazy

I am, without a doubt, one of the laziest people on the planet. Despite my overwhelming laziness, I’m also strangely ambitious. My ambition and tenacity is what lead me to pursue a career as a writer, YouTuber, and Twitch Streamer. Even with so many projects on my plate, I’m still making plans to start a story-based TikTok account. Juggling all of my work when I literally have no energy to do any of it is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but I am living proof that it’s still possible. Whether you are a lazy person with dreams of being a professional writer or you work full time and are trying to find a way to fit writing into your schedule, you can use these 7 tips to build your productivity as a writer.

1. Set Your Goals

One of the things that helped me the most when I first set out on my path to become a full-time fiction writer was the notion that I’m not just making stories: my writing and all of the things that go along with it are a business. The first thing that business owners do when they start a business is to set goals and then make a plan to achieve those goals. I talk about goal setting a lot, because I’m a very goal-oriented person and because I believe that setting goals gives you a big-picture view of what you want to achieve.

Any goal you set for your writing business should fall in line with SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. What this means is that you need to know exactly what you want to achieve, you have to have some way of measuring the goal and how close you are to achieving it, it has to be something that is realistic for you to achieve, and it has to have a deadline.

I learned about SMART goals while I worked as a grant writer for a large non-profit that served over 20,000 people in Central Indiana. Any time we talked about a new project for the organization, we always thought about it in reference to goal setting. Using SMART goals you can track your progress more easily, determine whether or not your project is succeeding before you reach the end, and evaluate your success after the deadline has hit.

My first goals for my work as a writer were to reach 5,000 followers on Twitter, build up a YouTube following of 100, and gain 100 followers on my Twitch Stream. As a writer, I wanted to publish one story and sell 5,000 copies of that story in the first year after it was published. With those goals in mind, I set out a step-by-step plan for what all I needed (both in resources and in tangible work) to reach those goals.

Another grant-writing tool you can use to help come up with your plan of action is something called a Logic Model. With a logic model, you lay out all of the resources you currently have, all of the resources you need, the specific jobs that you have to input into the project, and what you expect to gain from all of that input. It helps lay out the small steps needed to reach a bigger goal, and the Logic Model also helps identify any aspects of your plan that are too sparse or not necessary so that you’re not wasting resources.

2. Find Your Time

You either have a limited amount of time to work, or you procrastinate so much that you tend to put yourself in a bind. Those things are okay, as long as you find ways to use your time wisely. This is probably easier said than done. You might have kids, dogs, spouses, classes, work, or a dubious combination of all of these things standing in your way. And here’s the thing; you’re probably not going to like where I suggest you take your time from, but I promise you it will help if you can manage it.

One place where you can locate extra time is from the time you spend scrolling through Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, or any other social media platform. Do you use social media to promote your work? That’s great. So do I. But I use a content management app to do it. I spend less than 30 minutes a week working on my social media account (maybe a little longer if I’m replying to posts), and then I set it aside and get back to work. No doom scrolling, no 4 hour long binges, just a quick checkup here and there and I’m done.

Extra time can also be found when you don’t have to spend an hour cooking every meal. For this, I don’t mean default to fast food or unhealthy habits. Ask your partner to take over cooking a meal here and there. Do some meal prep: every time you cook food, make a little bit extra and put it in the freezer. When I cook, I make at least two extra meals worth of each dish and use those for my lunches. Healthy, delicious, and time saving.

This one is probably going to hurt a little bit, and I’m sorry I even have to bring it up: do you watch TV, Twitch, or YouTube? Stop. It sucks, I know, but the time you spend watching shows is interfering with time you could be using to write. You don’t even have to cut out all of it, if you don’t want to, but you should seriously consider at least cutting down on your TV time so that you have more time to achieve your dream. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Do you have kids who demand your attention whenever you try to write? Ask your partner to take care of them for an hour or two each week so you can write. Don’t have a partner? Think about who else you might have in your life who could help out by watching the kids. Write when they’re taking a nap. Write while they’re zoned out in front of the TV watching the same cartoon they’ve already seen twenty billion times. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s exhausting, but you can do this if you really want to make it work.

3. Treat Writing Like a Job

Treating writing like a job is similar to the idea of turning your writing into a business, but there’s a specific distinction to be made: you have specific work hours you have to meet when you work a regular job. You have specific tasks you have to accomplish each day at a regular job. Why should your writing job be any different?

We spent so much effort trying to find the time to work on writing, you shouldn’t be using it to do something that isn’t writing related. If you need help staying on task, you can try doing writing sprints. I love doing writing sprints because they help me stay focused on just writing during a two hour block that I set for myself each week. Set a time for yourself to “go to work.” During that time, write non-stop for 25 minutes straight. Then take a 5 minute break. Then write again for another 25 minutes. Keep cycling like that for 2 hours, and then your work day is done. Congratulations, you’re a writer!

4. Make Realistic Deadlines (and stick to them)

Part of making SMART goals is creating specific deadlines to meet your goals, but you can’t meet your goals if you don’t finish individual tasks in a timely manner. When you start a new writing project, give yourself a deadline for when you will finish writing it. Once the writing is done, give yourself a deadline for when you’ll finish the first edit, the second edit, the third edit, and so on until you have a polished story. Then give yourself a deadline for pre-launch preparations and marketing, a deadline for launch, and a deadline for each post-launch marketing task ahead of you.

I know this all sounds overly structured, but the best way to get yourself to stop procrastinating is to put a little pressure on yourself to actually get the work done. A lot of us believe that we work better under pressure. Prove it, by setting a deadline and getting your work done.

5. Take Breaks

Never underestimate the power of taking a break. Breaks allow us to decompress, to recharge, and to think about other things. You cannot live your entire life only working toward a goal without letting up. You know why so many YouTubers post mental health videos and frantic pleas to their audience to let them go on vacation? It’s because most of them have been working non-stop for years and not taking the time they need to enjoy the fame and wealth that their careers have brought them. They’ve burned out. Don’t let yourself burn out.

If you need a vacation from writing, take a vacation. Writing is no good if the writer never gets to experience the real world. Don’t feel guilty if you need a week or two for yourself: it’s fine and it’s normal. If you don’t take a break every now and then, you risk facing writer’s block or becoming desensitized. You might even begin to hate writing. Nobody wants that, so make sure you take care of yourself.

6. Compartmentalize Tasks

Being a writer is about more than just writing stories. More and more, we need to have an already established platform before publishers will even take a look at us. We have to build our own platforms, publish stories, win awards, and already be successful before anyone will give us a chance. It sucks. But it’s possible to make it happen if we compartmentalize our tasks to meet the goals we’re reaching for.

Earlier, I mentioned that I spend about 30 minutes a week working on social media posts. I know that’s how much time I spend because I sit down for half and hour each week and compose every post I’m going to make for the entire week. I have a set time for it, a deadline that I need to follow, and I get it done. Two days a week I sit down and focus on writing. Two days a week I edit my YouTube videos. Two days a week I stream on Twitch. Every task has a certain time and a certain day that I work on it.

You don’t want to overwork yourself or try to do too many things at once. Multitasking is a bad habit. I don’t care that you think you’re a great multi-tasker. A study on people who multi-task proved that doing two things at once takes longer than doing each task individually and results in worse work than if people had just buckled down and done one task at a time. Time management is the key to working successfully. Compartmentalize your work, and only do one thing at a time.

Of course, there’s a little bit of a caveat here. I have some attention issues that make it difficult for me to focus on a single task for too long. What I do to get around this issue is plan multiple tasks that keep losing my focus and switch between them when I need a break. If you have the same issue, I encourage you to use this approach to battle work fatigue. As long as you get your work done on time, it doesn’t really matter if you have a bit of ADHD along the way.

7. Build Synergy

I have a YouTube Channel, a Twitch Channel, and I write for a living. Most people on YouTube or Twitch talk about how each one of those things takes up all of their time, and most of them have employees that help them get it all done. When you’re working by yourself, how do you manage so many projects? The answer is Synergy.

Sure, I have a lot of projects. But if you really look at my work, you’ll notice that my brand is all about writing. On YouTube, I post highlights from my Twitch Streams. On Twitch I give myself writing challenges, writing sprints, and writing practice. When do I get my regular writing and editing done? On Twitch. Using Twitch, I’ve built a system where I can get my normal work done but still put in the effort to engage audiences, practice my writing, and generate content for other platforms. It’s fun, and I don’t have to spend a ton of extra time recording. It also helps that recording video through my Twitch stream actually cuts down on the amount of video editing I have to do because the videos are already pre-formatted the way that I like it.

What it comes down to is that you need to find ways to save time on each of your projects. The more content you create that can be shared on multiple platforms, the easier your life is going to be. Earlier I mentioned that I’m planning a storytelling project for TikTok. If I only worked on the story for TikTok, I would have to find time for that project outside of my regular work. Am I going to do that? Of course not. I’m going to stream myself writing the story on Twitch, post highlights of me writing the story on YouTube, post the story itself to TikTok, and then make compilations of my story TikToks to create even more posts for YouTube. With one project, I’m creating content for multiple posts across three platforms and I’m doing it with about two hours of work (not including video editing time) each week.

That’s All, Folks

As far as tips to streamline your writing is concerned, all of my advice here is pretty basic. Of course you should work smarter, not harder. Of course you should find time to write. The most important takeaway is that you should really consider changing the way you think about yourself as a writer. You’re not an aspiring writer; you’re not a hobbyist; you are a writer. Want to know the difference between an amateur and a professional? Professionals get paid. If you’ve ever made even a penny off of your writing, you are a professional. Treat yourself like one. Treat your writing like a business and put in the work. Figure out what things you’re doing to build your career as a writer that aren’t strictly necessary and stop doing them. Identify what projects you’re doing that could work across multiple platforms and save yourself some time and energy that would have otherwise been wasted trying to come up with new content. All my advice here? I’m probably going to turn it into a YouTube video in the near future.

Writing productivity isn’t really about putting in a million hours of work; it’s learning to use the limited time that you have available to your advantage. I hope my 7 tips to better writing productivity has helped you even a little bit in your writing adventures. Hopefully you can put it to good use from here on out.

As always, thanks for stopping by to hang out. I’ll see you later!

Conventional wisdom is dumb

It’s almost midnight. I’ve stayed up late every day for the past two weeks working on promotional videos for the launch of my new book. Today I made a last minute decision to redo my YouTube intro. After everything I’ve learned about sound design and title animation over the last couple of weeks, a sleek new video intro sounded like just the thing my channel needed. Unfortunately, that also meant I had to redo the intro for all of my promotional videos for my book. There’s this adage that says you can only get out of something equivalent to the amount of effort you put into it.

I should probably mention this: I think conventional wisdom is stupid. I’ve seen plenty of people luck into huge payoffs, and other people toil for years only for it to all come to nothing. I’m not exactly lucky, myself. But I’m tenacious. Tomorrow, I have another video to edit. The day after that I’m plotting out a new short story. Then I’m writing, then editing, then rewriting, and so on. I have videos to post and even more videos to edit after that. All of this, and I have no idea if I’m going to get back even a tenth of the effort I put in.

I know I’m making it sound exhausting, but I’ve never been happier. This is basically my dream job. My tiresome dream job. I can’t wait for my book to come out. I’m proud of every single silly video I made to hype up my book. I’m even proud of my new intro segment (even though I still have a couple of kinks to work out).

There’s another adage I’ve heard used a lot: it’s not work if you’re doing what you love. See? This is why conventional wisdom is dumb. I love what I do, but it’s hard work. I feel it every time my alarm goes off and I crawl out of bed, sleep deprived, to spend yet another day staring at a computer screen that will never love me back. I’m not even sure I’m making sense anymore.

It’s past midnight and my video just finished rendering. It took an hour and a half.

If you ever wanted to be something – and I mean, like, really wanted it – people are going to tell you all sorts of things about how you can achieve it and how it will feel when you get there. People are always full of cheerful precepts that somehow never helped them in their own personal lives. Instead of following untrustworthy platitudes that do little more than ask you to work hard and get nothing in return, I like to follow a simpler kind of wisdom.

There’s a book in the Christian Bible called Ecclesiastes. It’s my favorite. Believed to have been written by King Solomon, who was gifted wisdom directly from God and was said to be the wisest man who has ever lived or ever will live, Ecclesiastes offers my favorite piece of advice: Stop chasing the wind. It basically says that all your worries about the future; all your toiling for fame, fortune, and recognition; and all the other silly things that we strive for are as meaningless as chasing the wind. We should, instead, seek satisfaction in our relationship with God and be content in the work that we do.

I’m telling you, Ecclesiastes is a game changer. All that hard work that I do every day is working towards something I can be content with. Instead of striving for fame and fortune as a writer, I’m just happy I get the chance to do the work. I would leave all the adages in the world in a trash heap just for Solomon’s simple observation that all the things we’re taught to care about aren’t as important as we think they are.

All of that to say that you should find the kind of wisdom that can keep you content in your work so you don’t burn out or give up entirely. Even if conventional wisdom is ridiculous, motivation is motivation. Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars (or something equally as stupid).

I don’t think there was a point to any of this, I’m just exhausted and trying to pass the time while another video cooks. In any case, thanks for stopping by to witness my weird ranting. I’ll see you later!

Struggling for Success or Satisfaction

Making books is hard. I know that realization should be self-evident, but no matter how many times I’ve gone through the book publishing process, it always seems to surprise me how difficult it actually is. In fact, everything gets more and more difficult the more often I do it.

Thankfully, the gradually increased difficulty of making books occurs for a very good reason: it becomes more difficult over time because I’m learning more about the process and what needs to be done to launch a book successfully every time I do it. That always means more work. But it’s work that is worth it.

The first time I ever published a book, I put in the effort to make a nice cover and to format the book as well as I could figure out, and then I put it out for the world to see. Then I waited and did nothing else, expecting people to see the beauty of this thing I made. To say that it didn’t work out would be an understatement. Honestly, looking back I can’t imagine what I must have been thinking. The fact of the matter is that I simply didn’t know what to expect, so my book got a pleasing number of 5000 downloads and then quickly drifted into obscurity.

My first experience attempting to publish a book was heartbreaking, but it helped me learn that I needed to put in more effort. I needed to do marketing and publicity. Unfortunately, I didn’t have money for such things and my knowledge of gorilla marketing tactics, search algorithms, and business was severely lacking. So I did a few free things to market my book, like setting up booths at local fairs and trying (and failing) to get libraries to add my book to their shelves. I made a little more money than the first book, but not by much.

For my current book, fine., which will be released on May 15, 2021, I took things a lot more seriously. I’ve spent the past two years studying business and marketing at my local library. I went to seminar after seminar where I learned about launch teams, pricing strategies, cross-platform promotion, and so much more. I optimized my book cover, made promotional materials, built a launch team, and have been doing nothing but work, work, and more work to try and get a win for my writing career. Over the past four days I’ve been working non-stop on all of my promotion materials and wrangling my launch team. I even meticulously hand-drew animation for my book trailer, which – let me tell you – is an exercise in perseverance when you have no prior animation experience.

I don’t know if this latest strategy will be my big break, or yet another learning experience. Either way, I can be happy if I sell one book or 1.5 million books. Over the years since I started writing, I eventually had to ask myself a very important question: if I knew that I would never make any money on my books, would I still want to be a writer? That question helped me realize that I have to make my writing career work, because I don’t want to do anything else. Being a writer isn’t all I am, but it’s such a significant part of my identity that I can’t imagine giving it up.

Making books is hard. It is hard emotionally, and it is hard practically. But I want it to be difficult, because the struggle that I face as a writer is the kind of struggle that leads to either success or satisfaction. It isn’t a life for everyone, but it’s mine.

Thanks for stopping by, and I will see you later!

Using Twitch to Fuel my Career as a Writer

Turning the super niche into something that works!

Hey everyone! Today I’ve been thinking about how I use live streaming to my advantage as a writer. I’ve been live streaming on twitch for a while, and it isn’t easy to grow a writing platform on a site that’s mostly meant for gamers. I knew going into it that getting a following on Twitch wasn’t going to be easy. Even now, my audience isn’t that large, and it grows very slowly. There just aren’t that many writers using the platform, and most people who go there typically want to watch people play games. So then, why did I decide to stream on Twitch?

The answer is, surprisingly, the same as the problem: there aren’t many writers on Twitch. I chose to use the platform because I won’t have too much competition. On other live-streaming services, like YouTube, there are already a lot of well-established writers who know what they’re doing. Those well-known faces can overshadow newer channels, like mine. But on Twitch, more and more categories are being created over time for niche audiences like mine. It’s still in a growth period, and I thought I could use that to my advantage.

There’s another reason that I like to use live-streaming to build my audience: live-streams make great exclusive content for my audience. I post edited versions of my Twitch streams on YouTube, but there are some things that happen in my streams that my YouTube audience will never get to see. It makes a great incentive to push some of my audience to catch me during a stream, because I may not post all the fun stuff that happens live and sometimes I don’t post entire streams. If people want more from me, it gives them incentive to pay attention to what I’m doing on a more regular basis.

Using my streams from Twitch to create my YouTube content also provides me with a great deal of synergy. I don’t have to worry as much about creating specific videos for YouTube and also making time to do my live streams. I get twice the content for half the work, which makes my life a whole lot easier and gives me more time to focus on my writing. My streams even have the added benefit of allowing me to freely work on my most recent writing or editing project while still making content that people watch. You should never snub your nose at a good series of writing sprints on you live-stream. Sometimes people show up to write or edit with you, and other times they watch just to have something relaxing play in the background. My audience might be small and niche, but the ones who show up for me are encouraging, helpful, and a joy to spend time with in the writing dungeon.

Starting channels on Twitch and YouTube was the best decision I made as a writer. Having to put out regular content helps compel me to treat my writing more like a 9 to 5 job rather than a hobby. Treating writing like a hobby is where a lot of authors fail. If you don’t take your own writing seriously, how can you expect anyone else to take it seriously? That, my friends, is a lesson that I’ve had to learn the hard way.

If you get a chance, you should come hang out with me on Twitch, sometime. I always welcome the company. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you later!

Gaming on my YouTube Channel

Check out my latest series!

Hey everyone! I just started playing a new game called Hyper Light Drifter, and I’m posting my game play on YouTube! I really like this series so far. It’s been really fun to play, and even more fun to edit. In this episode I got a little bit obsessed with the puppies in the game, though. I’ve always really loved dogs, so it’s not that surprising that I would immediately want to avenge the precious puppy people that get hurt by the bad guys.

I’m not a great gamer, for the most part. If there’s one skill as a gamer that I have in spades, it’s enthusiasm. But I don’t mind being less than great at games, as long as I can still play them. Gaming is a really great way for me to unwind. Every other moment of my day is spent in the pursuit of writing, and I believe that a woman needs to have hobbies. Life can’t always be about careers. I’m really happy that I’ve left myself room to allow my career to integrate my hobbies. If you’re like me and you have a tendency to overwork yourself, pretending your hobby is part of your job provides a nice bit of relief.

There’s still more to come from me Hyper Light Drifter, as well as other fun projects that I’ve been working on, so I hope you stay tuned! Thanks for dropping by, and I’ll see you later.

Welcome to CC Writes!

What to look forward to from CC Lepki

Hey everyone! Welcome to CC Writes; my name is CC Lepki. If you’ve been following me for a while, than you’re probably pretty familiar with all the things I do, but for those new friends and followers that are just showing up, please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a tragedy writer from Indiana. I’ve written two novels, a non-fiction analysis of the Deadpool Killogy, and more grant applications than I can possibly count. For a while, I’ve been sharing videos on YouTube and doing live streams on Twitch where I do writing sprints, writing challenges, and give advice about writing. I really love what I do, and I hope you love it, too. But today, I’m not here to talk about the past: I want to look ahead to what the future has in store!

Next month, on May 15th, 2021, I’m planning to launch my latest book, fine. My new book is about a teenage girl named Syd and her dark spiral into depression, substance use, and self-hatred. This book is really intense, to say the least, and I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done to make it come to life. Honestly, writing the book was a major challenge. As someone who suffers from major anxiety and depression, Syd’s problems really resonated with me. I ended up putting a lot of my own fears and anxieties into the story, and so I really hope everyone ends up loving it as much as I do.

I still have a lot of work to do: I’m in the middle of creating my author website, building a launch team for my book, and doing all of the last minute work that’s necessary for making a successful book. I really want to be able to release it by mid-May for once specific reason: May is mental health awareness month, and not only is my book about a person suffering from mental illness, but it is also meant to teach people about the red flags of suicide ideation. Making sure that people can identify a person in crisis is really important to me, but I also want to ensure that they have the resources they need to persuade people to seek help and refer them to appropriate services. For that reason, I’m also including a mental health resource packet at the end of my book, along with a few nice resources that people suffering from mental illness and people in crisis can use to help cope with what they’re going through.

In the past, I worked as a grant writer for a behavioral health organization, and my time there left a lasting impression on me and my work. I would love nothing more than to have the tragedies that I write help people in some way. If nothing else, I hope that the people who read my stories are able to achieve some sort of emotional catharsis. That, after all, is what tragedy is for.

One more thing that you have to look forward to from me: more blog posts! I may not be very regular about my blog posts, but I’ll do my best to share news about my work and post some of my favorite videos from YouTube. Stay tuned on that front, as well. I’m hoping to make a book trailer and some other promotional materials for my new book.

Thank you so much for dropping by. See you later!