If you are a creator for Odyssey at UCLA, you are probably aware by now that I am the new Editor In Chief (Elle's successor). First off, I want to say how deeply grateful I am for this opportunity. I have always engaged in writing or editing in some capacity outside of school, and to be able to allocate the skills I've acquired over the years to a program such as this at UCLA is truly a gift.
As I settle into this new position, I'm feeling a lot of things: excitement, pride, nervousness, anticipation, but most importantly, empathy. Even though I'm a freshman, I've been writing for Odyssey at UCLA since the summer of 2019. Now I'm not saying that's a long time, but I am saying that it was long enough for me to understand the challenges that come with this type of independent and consistent writing process. When I applied over the summer, I didn't realize I would be starting right away. For all Odyssey knew, I could have paid a deposit at another college and changed my mind before August. But when I was offered a spot, the president at the time let me know that I would start as soon as possible.
At first, it was awesome. I had so many ideas and so much time to perfect them. But four weeks later, those ideas became fewer. Six weeks later, those ideas became nil. Running out of ideas felt like hitting rock bottom. Not only did my schedule quickly fill up when school came around, even when I had time to write, I didn't have words to put on the page. Each week I'd stress about what I was going to submit on Wednesday. I went from writing my article over the weekend, proofreading it on Monday, and having it ready to submit on Tuesday, to scrambling together a last minute article Wednesday itself.
I have a vivid memory of sitting in the car over break, while my mom went into a grocery store and I stayed back with my laptop open and phone hotspot on, doing the last revisions of my article before submitting it. I remember thinking to myself, "why am I doing this? No one cares about my article. What am I getting out of this? Why aren't I doing school work right now instead?" These thoughts haunted me for a while, and for a brief period, I thought I didn't deserve to continue. I knew I wasn't putting my all into it. I wasn't writing because I wanted to, I was writing because I felt obligated to.
That's not what this is.
I tell all of you this, not to expose the slump I went through on my journey here, but to encourage those of you who may approach a similar experience one day, to navigate it differently. When I recognized the drop in my content quality and attributed it to my lack of passion for what I was writing, I realized that there was no point in forcing myself to come up with a sub-par article just for the purpose of submission. Odyssey has an extension policy for a reason. I began texting Elle when I was in these slumps, confessing that either I had no clue what to write about, or just needed some more time to produce something I was proud of - and she supported me.
Please do this! I never, ever want you to feel like you are being forced to write something. I want you to want to write something. That's the entire spirit of Odyssey. School is hectic, and now with the complete 180 we've all had to take as a result of COVID-19, getting back into routine is even harder. Focus on yourself, focus on school, do things that make you happy, and don't stress yourself out when you don't need to. I'm here for you. Sam's here for you. We are so incredibly grateful to have each and every one of you with us on this team. Believe it or not, you all contribute to our community in a unique way that we would never want to be of burden. Yes, here at Odyssey, we write articles once a week and it is important to submit on time. But this is not your whole life, and I don't want it to consume your life. I don't want it to ever turn into a task that you have to get over with. I want this to be an outlet for your creativity. For those nights when your thoughts keep running wild and you have nowhere to put them.
I'm not saying take your time so that everything you produce is a masterpiece. And I'm not asking that you change your routine if you have one that works for you. I just want you to be comfortable.
I know it isn't easy. I know the consistency we ask of you might feel tedious after some time. I know writer's block is inevitable, and the reality is that you are going to face it time and time again. But when you let yourself breathe, and really put your mind to it when you're ready, you can produce something much more rewarding than a check on your to-do list.
With that being said, I am so excited to work with all of you, and please remember: we are in this together.