Tired of your own voice? Try writing as someone else! When one is blocked, feeling intimidated by the overwhelming talent of others or otherwise discouraged about the state of one’s literary pursuits, one potential solution is to come at things from a different angle. If your ego is tripping you up, just set it aside. Become a different person. Shapeshift (or as my malaprop-prone son sometimes says, ship-shafe’t). It’s incredibly liberating. You feel so much less pressure to live up to the standards that you’ve placed upon yourself, because what you’re producing isn’t really you. It’s pastiche, it’s fun, and I’ve done it before, here and here. So you can probably guess where I’m heading with this. I’ve decided to take one of the simplest, most enduring stories, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and speculate what it might have sounded like had Aaron Sorkin banged it out. Enjoy it. Or don’t, it’s entirely up to you.
INT. LEO’S OFFICE – DAY
LEO MCGARRY is at his desk. On the phone.
LEO: Yeah. Okay. Thanks.
He hangs up.
MARGARET pokes her head in, notepad and pen at the ready.
MARGARET: You really don’t need to yell.
LEO: Yeah, this time I do. Send in Josh and Toby. Tell the Secretary of Agriculture he needs to be up on the Hill smooth-talking the committee chair on 404. And I need the next five minutes the President’s got.
MARGARET steps out. JOSH LYMAN and TOBY ZIEGLER enter.
JOSH: Leo, settle something for us. You’re on a desert island and you have a choice between Iolanthe and the Mikado.
LEO: Yeah, I don’t really care. Listen…
JOSH: This is about the Ag Bill, isn’t it.
TOBY: It’s not the Ag Bill.
JOSH: I bet it’s the Ag Bill.
TOBY: It’s not gonna be the Ag Bill, the one that we just spent seven weeks negotiating, to the detriment of our physical and psychological health, not to mention every social relationship we ever pretended to care about.
LEO: It’s the Ag Bill.
TOBY (resigned): This is why I continue to hate the world.
JOSH: What happened?
LEO: I just got off a call with the Minority Whip. Republican leadership is attaching an amendment.
TOBY: To the Ag Bill.
TOBY: To the bill that cost us the support of the entire progressive wing of the Democratic caucus.
JOSH: I’m telling you, we coulda used those three votes.
TOBY: To the bill that is basically a laundry list of every Republican priority on agriculture in this country. A bill that could not be more Republican-friendly if we called it the “Ronald Reagan Second Amendment Let’s Blow Up an Abortion Clinic and Drill in Yellowstone Bill.”
TOBY (smirks, looks down): Why?
LEO: They’re not happy with the subsidies for organic hen farming and pork production. They want them taken out or they won’t move the bill out of Committee.
JOSH: The Republicans are threatening to block the bill because they don’t like green eggs and ham?
LEO: They do not like green eggs and ham.
TOBY: I do not like them.
SAM SEABORN is walking by the open door. He stops and pokes his head in.
SAM: I am!
LEO: Siddown. Republicans are attaching an amendment to 404. We need to see if we can unlock some Democratic votes for it.
SAM: If they didn’t like the bill before, they’re not going to go for it with another Republican amendment. What is it this time?
TOBY: Green eggs and ham.
SAM: The organic farming section?
LEO: Who do we have on our side that’s movable if that part’s gone?
SAM: You might get Jankowitz, Stephens… Geller’ll vote for it just to stick it to Martindale and his three.
JOSH: I can probably wrangle three more from the Blue Dogs.
TOBY: Nothing like fighting for a watered-down joke of a bill we never wanted in the first place.
LEO: Okay. Time to make some calls. We need this win, I don’t gotta tell you twice. The latest Gallup says our poll numbers are softening and the country is crying out for a solid agricultural policy.
TOBY: Which we’ll get by getting rid of green eggs and ham.
JOSH: It’s okay, nobody likes green eggs and ham.
PRESIDENT BARTLET enters from the side door.
BARTLET: What’s this about green eggs and ham?
LEO: Republican amendment to 404. Deleting the organic farming section.
BARTLET: Well, if there’s one thing we can count on Republicans for, it’s screwing Mother Earth with her pants on.
BARTLET: Did you know that organic farm subsidies account for a tenth of one percent of all federal spending on agriculture? We’re happy to fork out the cash, so long as you’re spraying your fields with toxic sludge you wouldn’t dare use to wax your own car. You know what the problem is? No one’s ever been forced to try green eggs and ham. We’ve become a country so accustomed to the comfort of familiarity that the thought of change has become a terrifying prospect. Even if that change is for the better. The problem with that is, it’s not what the Framers had in mind. America was meant to be an experiment in constant change. Forming a more perfect union is about forever trying new things with the understanding that some of them will be scary, and some of them won’t work. Some will be spectacular failures. But we have to try them anyway, because we’ll never know if we don’t. It’s like Voltaire said: we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the necessary. Who knows – in the midst of all the noise, all the partisan bickering, maybe we’ll find out in the end that we do like green eggs and ham.
Determination settles upon the faces of his staff.
LEO: About 404, sir?
BARTLET: Let’s have a debate. A real debate. We the People can decide if they like green eggs and ham.
SAM: Not for nothing, but I’ve always liked them.
SAM: I am.
What’d ya think? Anyone else want to give it a go? Pick a different writer – novelist, screenwriter, whoever, and retell your version of Green Eggs and Ham in their voice. Put the link to your story in the comments. Anxious to see what you come up with!