Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Year of Yes

Shonda Rhimes at TED
Shonda Rhimes is a story teller. She writes for TV. She owns Thursday night: all three ABC prime time slots are hers.  She's a powerful and influential Hollywood figure, all the more outstanding as a double minority - both female and black. Not surprisingly, she's much in demand as a speaker or guest at many big events. But, as her sister once muttered, she always said no.

After acknowledging the truth of that statement, Rhimes commits to spend a year saying yes. Being a writer, of course she wrote about it in The Year of Yes. The book describes how this introverted, insecure writer, who retreats obsessively into writing for three - yes, count 'em three - simultaneous hit TV shows, makes a resolution to start saying yes and emerging from her shell. She accepts invitations, she gives speeches, she's a headliner at the opening session of TED 2016 (live-streamed for the first time this year at cinemas - you can see it here). The book was a quick and breezy read. Although I found the tone a bit tedious, nevertheless I quite enjoyed the book. Her TED talk was engaging and fast-paced, but I thought she failed to land a single strong key message. 

I was particularly fascinated because I once sat next to Rhimes at TED. When I asked her what she did, she diffidently responded she was a writer. Pressed for details, she said she wrote for TV and for movies. When I asked which she liked better, she cracked me up with her response: "TV. In movies, the director can fire the writer; in TV, the writer can fire the director." I went on to ask her about the dynamics of writing as part of a team and she dipped her head and explained that since she created the show and did most of the writing, she wasn't really involved in that team dynamic.  As you can tell, I still hadn't figured out who she was. She was just a self-effacing unassuming fellow TEDster. So I don't think her description of her introvert period is at all exaggerated.

For a list of more book reviews in my blog, click here.

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