Let me just start by saying this: I am not a writer, or at least that's what I used to think. Writers create novels. They write about relationships between people and the deeper things in life. They build entire worlds out of nothing. That's not something I've ever been able to do, nor will I ever, so I surprised myself by applying to write for Odyssey last summer.
On July 25, 2017, I accepted an offer to write through Miami University's chapter, and the rest is history. It's now been one year since I started, and I've learned a lot of lessons along the way.
1. You don't need to "be a writer" to write.
Don't writers need to actually be able to, oh, I don't know, write? Like I said, I'd never considered myself a writer because I didn't know how to write things that others could relate to. Nevertheless, I had a few article ideas surrounding "The Office" based upon other content I'd seen, and I ultimately decided to apply because I know someone who writes for Odyssey through The Ohio State University. (Seriously, everyone, go check out Marly's page because she's an amazing and #relatable writer.)
2. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a good thing.
College is the time in your life to do absolutely everything even when you have time for absolutely nothing. I'm studying statistics and actuarial science, yet most weeks I write listicles about how college students relate to TV shows. You don't have to only join organizations that relate to your major.
3. How to market articles and utilize SEO
It's harder to make a difference if your articles aren't being read, so throughout the past year, I've had to learn how to market them to diverse audiences. Before Odyssey, I had no idea what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was, but now I realize how important it can be for success.
4. There's a .GIF for everything — literally.
5. How to stand out
In a world where it seems like the internet already has everything you could need, it's hard to not feel discouraged sometimes when writing. When you finally do get an idea, you might find out that it's already been done 40+ times, so how can yours be different? How are you going to stand out from the crowd and make people want to read yours over everyone else's?
6. Your craziest ideas can be the most successful.
My most popular article, "If College Majors Each Had A Disney Theme Song All Their Own," has gotten over 217k views to-date. It quickly went somewhat viral, and I could never have expected the overwhelming, positive response. (Also, you can get paid by Odyssey if you reach enough article views within a month. Just another great perk of the company!)
7. Having a great support system is everything.
There have been plenty of weeks I'm sitting at my laptop with no idea what to write, and I wonder how I'm still doing this. Anyone who writes anything, even papers, knows that hitting writer's block can be the absolute worst, but it's my best friends who keep me going. Week after week, I have them asking what I'm working on, wanting to know when articles are going live, and occasionally giving me ideas for pieces they'd love to see me write. They're also the absolute best article subjects.
8. It's important to have a place where your voice can be heard.
My articles, as a collective, have received 237+ thousand views in my first year writing. While I do commonly write comical listicles, I've also written longer pieces with deeper meaning. It's so important to have a platform where you know thousands of people could be reading your work.
What's Wednesday? It's Deadline Day! Despite most of the writers, editors-in-chief, and community presidents being college students, Odyssey is still a professional company. As writers, we have deadlines, we research and interview for articles, and we communicate with both our executive team and editors at company headquarters throughout the week. Odyssey has given me something not only to put on a resume but to start conversations with. People love asking about the work I do for the company, and I love talking about it just as much. Plus, I've gotten to do cool things like interview Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) on TV at my university and write about it.
10. If you *really* want to go viral, write something extremely controversial.
We've all seen them — the viral articles that start arguments in comment sections and spark other Odyssey writers to write articles in response. Now, we obviously don't know when writing how big our articles can get, but this seems to be a pretty clear path to that happening. After all, I think most millennial internet users know about THE prom dress article that has received over one million views.
11. That said, it's better to find *your thing* and run with it.
Why be someone else when you could be you? If you like writing interviews, go for it. Janie, one of Miami University's writers, is the absolute queen of it. For me, I enjoy writing college listicles, especially about my friends and experiences, and it's something I've found to be extremely fun. I enjoy writing opinion pieces too, but the best articles are going to be pieces you feel strongly about. Do you, and everything else will work out.
12. We really do have the best team.
I couldn't thank our team, editor-in-chief, president, past executive members and staff at headquarters enough. I really do love writing for this company, and the past year has been better than I could have imagined.
It's been a long 12 months, with some weeks being harder than others to come up with ideas, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Here's to a great first year, and here's to two more.
If you want to join the Odyssey team at Miami University or your own university, you can apply here.