I know what you’re thinking, “Umm, Cheryl, Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes came out in 2015. Eons ago in internet time. Plus it's the beginning of April." But when you find yourself immersed in what is now one of your fav books, all you wonder is, Why the heck didn’t I read this book sooner?
In my defense, Year of Yes has been on my Read This Now (aka When You Finally Freakin’ Slow Down) List. It truly feels like it just released this month, in my Dr. Who timey-wimey universe.
So, in the spirit of what’s old is new again, let’s declare all of 2019 the Year of Yes – Part 2.
Shonda (cuz I feel like if we met, she’d let me enjoy the fun of first names) writes a book filled with invitations for introverts to say yes – in so many wild and wonderful writer-ly ways. We’re all in this year of yes together, even if we only pull of one major yes.
First up, quick recap on who Shonda Rhimes is. No judgment if you don't know. It’s like that song you keep hearing and you looooove but have no idea who sang it or, even more esoteric, who wrote it.
Shonda Rhimes is most famous as the creator of the hit TV series Grey’s Anatomy, who powered to the top with other popular TV shows like the Grey’s spin-off Private Practice and the political thriller Scandal. She exec produces ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and stepped up her game with a multi-year development deal with Netflix Original series.
She also happens to be a black female triumvirate of awesomeness – writer, producer, and director –with universal experiences to inspire us all. And my personal fav, she mirrors a scosh of my own upbringing as a Midwestern please-and-thank-you female in her 40s. (More about accepting a “thank you” as a yes further down.)
Her Shondaland voice bursts through everything she does and, as an introvert herself, she rallies introverted writers and reminds us we are more than the solitary keyboards we plick away at.
Year of Yes opens with a quote from Shonda’s Ride or Die character Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy, “If you want crappy things to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more.”
Shonda grew into a powerhouse TV writer from a creative life built as a child playing among the cans of a simple pantry. Hidden away, she ran amok with the world-building stepping stones that build a creative life. But a magical internal life sometimes leaves writers a bit stumbly when it comes to really living in the real world.
It’s comforting to read Shonda’s stepping out and stepping up to so many chances at Yes:
• Yes to talking to Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel.
• Yes to inspiring Dartmouth grads with “Pass out, die, poop.” – cuz that’s what we secretly fear from public speaking.
• Yes to sussing out real friends, so we have the energy for a firm “no” to users.
Okay, so far no one’s called me to the big yes of talking to Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel, but don’t discount your yes stepping stones. Every tough yes leads you to becoming a stronger writer with more experiences to draw from. So, how about:
• Small YES to attending a local film fest and forcing yourself to talk to just five people about films. You never know who you might meet.
• Bigger YES to setting your screenplay free by entering a contest. Your strong enough for some helpful story criticism to flow back your way.
• And maybe another big YES to pitching your script. Come on, this the Year of Yes. Get out there.
As a female writer, I must admit to extra appreciating the Chapter “Yes, Thank You.” I’ve dodged compliments my entire life, like a super ninja thank you deflector. So, where’s the yes in accepting a thank you?
To borrow from Shonda, “…I’m going to say YES to accepting any and all acknowledgements of personal fabulous awesomeness with a clear, calm ‘Thank You’ and a confident smile and nothing more.” Yep, accept a compliment without ducking your head, waving it away, or laughing as if it’s all a silly lie.
She shares how shocked she was to see other powerful women in media brush away all their accolades. We all have bits and pieces in our backgrounds that stop us from accepting a compliment. But not this year. We have to all warm our little writer’s souls with any bit of praise to keep us going. Maybe the first baby step yes to a compliment is just that simple. Say thank you. You did the hard work, accept the kudos!
Oh wait, I just remembered – I’ve been meaning to bake those gluten-free, chocolate cream cheese cupcakes I saw on Cupcake Wars… I need Neufchatel cream cheese… wait, what the heck is Neufchatel cheese… maybe I should drive to Whole Foods… oh shit, I’m supposed to be writing.
The mental slog it takes to get us to the keyboard and writing those pages deserves a constant flow of yes energy.
Shonda understands our universal procrastination, “When you sit down to write every day, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that creative space inside your mind. The faster I can get to that door, the quicker I can get to the good stuff. Behind that door is the good stuff.”
Every time we sit down to write, we tromp though that five-mile journey. A slog of doodles and distractions and cupcakes to make and films to “research” and every other distraction that finally falls away when we hit that laptop.
This yes should be easy for us introvert writers. Writing is our kingdom, our multiverses in the making, our good stuff. Say the hard yes to butt in seat, fingertips poised – ready, set, write.
We are all hustling to that big YES of our films getting made, but there are so many fabulous yeses we can control along the way. Make this your Year of Yes – keep the momentum going, my fellow screenwriters and filmmakers extraordinaires!
Cheryl Laughlin is a finalist in the National Lampoon & Stage 32 Search for Comedy Writing Gold, a past reader for the Nashville Film Festival script competition, and Script Magazine columnist. As a Midwestern transplant to California, she hopes Francis Ford Coppola was talking about her when he said, “Someday a little girl in Ohio is going to be the next Mozart and make a beautiful film..." And it's possible she ran through the house with her Top 10% in the Nicholl Fellowship announcement like Anne Hathaway with her Oscar. When she’s not screenwriting or editing screenplays, she tweets her support of all things indie film @cheryllaughlin. She also believes you can never say please and thank you enough for all the kindnesses to your script along the way.
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