Green Eggs and Ham and a Bet


Contributed by Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter, Rewriter

This is a short post, but I found it fascinating and wanted to share.

Who would think that a random bet and constraints could lead to a book that sold 8 million copies as of 2019, and would become the best-selling book of the Dr. Seuss series?

When most people think of the word ‘constraint,’ it invokes a negative feeling or idea.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of constraint is “something that controls what you do by keeping you within particular limits.”

This is where the negative idea comes from.

It makes sense that something that limits you, controls you, isn’t a good thing.

Well, according to James Clear, constraints are our friend. Constraints foster creativity and motivate us to work within those limits to accomplish what we need to.

What I found exceptionally interesting is that “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss came about through a bet and constraints.

In 1960, Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House, bet Theo Geisel that he couldn’t write a children’s book with only 50 words or less.

The bet was for $50.

Imagine if Dr. Seuss balked at the idea of writing a story of only 50 words for a bet of a measly $50.

I’m sure you’ll find the rest of Clear’s article as interesting as I did:
The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. If you need help with your story, visit Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Karen also offers authors:

A DIY book to help you write your own children’s book.

Self-publishing help for children’s authors.


Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this post about constraints and our writing. I've heard this story about Dr. Seuss and GREEN EGGS AND HAM. It's remarkable years after the publication of this book that it continues to be in the top selling children's books every week. It's the great dream and hope of every author to have such success.

author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, I only read about it a few years ago. It astounded me that a simply bet could lead to GREEN EGGS AND HAM. And it is every author's "great dream." And a special thanks - I can't thank you enough for the tip!

Nina said...

This sort of thing happens pretty often, someone will say "You can't do" something and it inspires the competitive nature in us. Makes us want to meet that dare. The constraints are indeed the key issue in this sort of challenge. I had never heard about this story with Dr. Seuss, thank you for sharing.
Nina Pak

Karen Cioffi said...

Nina, it is true. Sometimes we need that shove, whether in the form of a bet with constraints or other. What ever it takes! :)

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