Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How Many Licks? -- Eve

Remember that old commercial that goes, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” And then the cute pudgy little owl takes the pop and licks it, “One, two, tha-ree…CRUNCH!” Then he goes, “Um, three…”

Kids of my generation spent a lot of time trying in vain to solve that great mystery. My buddies and I cleaned out the ice cream man and the concessions stand at our softball field every weekend to take on that challenge. Unfortunately, the world may never know how many licks it takes because, for starters, licking a sugary pop all day produces disgustingly painful tongue sores, so by the time you get to about 50 licks it feels like flesh-eating bacteria is invading your mouth. I’d spend the day licking away, then at bedtime I’d re-wrap the shiny blob in its colored waxy paper so I could pick it up again the next day. Sadly, by the time I woke up, I would usually have lost count. So I’d start all over. Tenacity.

As an adult, I still have the same persistence. As a writer, I feel like I spend an extraordinary amount of time licking the tootsie pop to get to the center. Seriously, I ask myself this daily. How many rewrites does it take to really reach the heart of my story? I also wonder how many days, months, years it takes other people to finish a YA novel. I mean, really finish, to the point where every little thing makes sense and the pieces fit together seamlessly.

One prolific writer friend told me she takes one month to write a book. One month! She spends only two or three more revising. Boom! Done. I read an interview today with a successful YA author who said she usually spends about three weeks cranking out a novel. Three weeks? On the flip side, I have another girlfriend who has spent many years revising one YA novel. And she’s still not satisfied.

What I’m wondering is why some of us have to lick the proverbial Tootsie Pop for 5 full years (me) before we really hit that center, while others sit like the pudgy little owl in the tree and just bite the damn thing and get it over with. We both get to that gushy, chocolaty core eventually. But why do I take 500 painful licks when others take only 3?

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. Or maybe just a glutton. Seriously, my parents should have bought stock in Tootsie Roll Industries back in the day. Those dudes still produce 20 million pops daily! I guess the younger generation is continuing the quest to discover just how many licks it really takes.

- Eve
(Who is bathing her purple tongue in liquid Lidocaine as we speak!)


Emily Jiang said...

Eve, I'm impressed with your tenacity as a child and as an adult. I think my highest Tootsie Pop center count was 20-something. Also, with the quest for's about enjoying the journey and the process of writing/revising! Because even WHEN publication will occur, most of our time will still be spent writing and rewriting! Take care!

Linda D. (sbk) said...

I've never understood those crunchers, either. It takes me forever! Thousands of little licks. And it's still not enough.

Christy Raedeke said...

Hey Eve, I'm a cruncher when it comes to lollipops, but I'm on the 5-year track with my novel as well. Maybe it gets easier? Maybe each one gets exponentially faster to write? (She says with high hopes.)

I don't know, it's a mysterious process. But I admire your tenacity. It WILL happen!

Becky Levine said...

I wish I knew. I think it's embedded deep down in our DNA (Hmm...genetic engineering isn't sounding so bad here!)and all we can do is work with what we've got. And give ourselves large doses of chocolate rewards at frequent milestones.

Your persistence is going to pay off.

Katie said...

Eve - thanks for the fun memory...where on earth did you recover that great picture of the commercial?!

Maybe emily's's about learning to enjoy the day to day journey and not focus on the finish line. Cuz after you get there, either you have more (but different) hurdles OR you have to start all over again....(on your next book)

That sounds like something my therapist would say and I'd tell him,"oh shut up! I wanna sell my dang book!"

good luck

Lauren said...

This post came at just the right time for me. Thank you for writing it! I'm on the fifth rewrite of my YA novel, but I'm still finding my way to the heart of the story in a manner that many writers would probably associate with a first draft. Sigh! I marvel at writers who just write "a draft" and then "edit" and then send the thing out. I don't think I'll ever be that type of writer.

Cheers to you and your five-year plan. :)

Disco Mermaids said...

You guys are so IS about the journey. And I really enjoy the journey. A lot. It's exciting and stimulating and fun and scary and satisfying.

Queen of Metaphors here... It really is like licking that dang Tootsie Pop for hours, days, months, years. It's enjoyable and sweet, but after a while, it becomes a little painful, and I'm looking forward to the chewy center.

And then, like childbirth (I'm guessing), after the book is finished and the mouth sores have healed, I'll forget the painful parts and start all over again.

Now that I think on it, I'm sort of glad to be one of those writers who takes my time on the journey. I believe it makes the finish line that much sweeter. If I cranked out a book a month, I don't think the satisfaction would be all that grand.


cynjay said...

Something about taking a licking and keeping on ticking comes to mind....

or is that a different commercial?

Disco Mermaids said...

"...And then, like childbirth...I'll forget the painful parts and start all over again."

For some reason, I have never forgotten the painful parts of childbirth. Maybe that's why I only have one child...

And I've been licking for years, too, Evie. (Which is the weirdest sentence I've ever written.)

Love ya!

Anonymous said...

You'll know when it's done. The feeling will just come to you. Doneness, and contentment. And, your patience between now and then, and even the courage to put it down once in a while to let it stew and bubble beneath your awareness, will pay off. Keep at it, Eve. And I look forward to reading it.


Rita said...

I love this analogy!!!

Thanks for this. Ah, it's such the question.