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The Art of Substitution

Several months ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a progressive women’s website that was looking for feature writers. I spent over a half hour on the website, reading the articles and “googling” some of the writers to see what other sites and publications they’d written for. In short I liked what I saw. They were stylish. They were exciting. And I wanted to be a part of the action However at the time I was focused on writing fiction and this column for Bella so I filed the information away—or at least I thought I did.

Then a few weeks ago, I began to write a feature article about a mother of four who is in the process of launching a self-publishing venture that is six years in the making. This is perfect for that hip, fun women’s website, I thought to myself. After I had a rough draft of the article, I went to my “favorites” menu and tried to find it, but lo and behold it wasn’t there. I’d forgotten to bookmark it. I emailed the friend who’d forwarded the link to me. She remembered sending it but couldn’t recall the name.

Undeterred I began to wade through all of our correspondence. After awhile I got bored re-reading notes about our domestic minutiae (which is pretty much only interesting the first time around) and I decided to do an internet search. I spent about an hour looking for the website, and you know what, I never found the original outlet I had in mind. Instead something else happened, I discovered three other sites. No they weren’t my first choice, but at least I had options. The article would find a good home one day.

As I write this, I’m suddenly aware of the connection between this article and what I wrote a few weeks ago about searching for The One mythical mentor. In any quest should you not get exactly what you had in mind at the outset, be prepared to make do with what you have, all the while continuing to aim higher.

Also I have to mention that while searching for substitutes I rediscovered an old joy—the hunt for a new writing experience. When I first started writing non-fiction regularly back in 1997, I was never satisfied to publish my stuff with one newspaper or magazine, I wanted to see my byline everywhere. Then after about twenty or so different publications featured my work, I continued to write, but I no longer made an effort to explore new venues.

No specific outcome is ever guaranteed. You might set out to bake an apple pie, but when you get to the grocery store you find out they only have bananas. Then banana pudding it is! Since we can’t bank on exact results, perhaps “the quest” is really what we should focus on. The actions that take us from one learning experience to the next. Adventure after adventure.

And you never know, to paraphrase Ansen Dibell, what we discover along the way, could be even better than what we originally imagined.




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