Research the origin of the phrase “salad days” and you’ll discover, especially in the U.S., it’s currently used to mean being at the peak of one’s abilities. That’s not how I’m using it. I use it as did William Shakespeare when he coined it in 1606. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment …” is from Anthony and Cleopatra: Act I, Scene 5 and Cleopatra speaks of her youthful naivete.
I’m a long way from my youth in life, but not in novel writing. In the fall of 2008, I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my novel The Brevity of Roses. Concerning the publishing business, I was not only hopeful that I’d be a success, I was confident. Ah, yes. I was “green in judgment.” I was naive. But I felt alive.
When I finished writing that novel, I queried it to the big name agents, none of whom broke the sound barrier in their haste to send me a contract. I revised my query letter and sent it to other agents. I received some, but not a lot of response. My confidence took a big hit. My hope waned.
Then, a major change in my life circumstances made the idea of self-publishing attractive. In hindsight, I see how “green in judgment” I remained. I am not naturally suited to indie publishing by personality. But I was even less suited to it after the agent querying process eroded my confidence. Since publication, some lovely positive reviews have helped restore a bit of that, but I fear I’ll never regain it completely.
I know I can’t fully return to those salad days. It’s unrealistic to think I can retain naivete and gain experience at the same time. But my Muse, jaded by reality, misses the exuberance of her “youth.” I’m having a devil of a time shutting off that publishing/marketing voice that questions every aspect of what I’m trying to write now.
To say I’m stressed is putting it mildly—and stress, for me, always takes a physical toll. Before I published my first novel, I was a few pounds overweight, but otherwise mostly healthy. Now, I’m more pounds overweight than I can bear to say, and I’m beaten down with health problems. In some sense, I have to find a way back to those “salad days” of writing.
I really don’t want to make the decision not to publish anything more, but I do want to write without distraction from publishing/marketing concerns. I need to recapture some of the innocence that made my fingers fly over the keyboard, thrilled at the story unfolding before me. I need to throw off these chains of stress and depression by believing once again that the story I’m writing is wonderful and the words flowing from my imagination will speak to readers in the way I’ve always dreamed.
So, I rescind my statement in a previous post that I hoped to have two books ready for publishing by the end of 2014. I don’t know if I’ll have even one ready. Right now, publishing is off my radar. I want to write. Further marketing of what I’ve already written is not something I can deal with, either. I want to interact in social media simply for the fun of it, like I did in my salad days … but maybe with a little less greeness.
It’s time to quit frowning and start smiling again. It’s time to feel alive again.