It’s been a few years since I’ve read Shonda Rhimes' autobiography “The Year of the Yes” so my post isn’t a fresh memory, and, my experience of her book is fresh in my heart's mind. My intuition has been pushing towards Voice since my world broke open when I found the feminist community in college, and it was so transformative for me that I decided to pick up a Women’s Studies’s minor knowing that shaping some kind of a career out of German and Women’s Studies would be a mystery, both career wise and financially. I love that I didn’t perceive this as a problem back then, that I was just going to follow the organic process of this first part of my life. Apparently, this is just how I function, Anne With Great Trust. I knew it then, I know it now.
I knew very little about Shonda Rhimes when I was given the book for my birthday. A book about a hugely successful author and screenwriter during a time in my life when I was not hugely successful according to my wish list of the time, and I was looking at another birth year, too. There would have been other books I would have wished for. The only piece I knew about her was that she was the writer of Grey’s Anatomy, a show that I absolutely loved. I started watching the show years after it was new, and was amazed by the character development, and my emotional involvement, and the crazy sense of humor, joy …. the re-watching I would do of individual scenes ... There was an incredible honesty and realness to each character which almost erased the less interesting medical background. I love how it was the medical story lines that felt forced at some point, not the character’s emotional lives, although I am not watching it anymore and and just wanted a different focus at some point.
And so with that, I started her book with solid skepticism, maybe something along the lines of "here is this book, yet another way she is going to make money from us fans … “
I remember liking that she wrote about her school times when she was so broke that she had to choose between a bottle of red wine and a roll of TP and usually the wine won. I remember being fascinated that she went on about this for about three pages, kind of script screenplay style, not prose. I remember being judgmental about the style. I remember feeling that piece of honesty out, trying to determine if she was using it as a marketing shock value thing to get the book to sell, or if she was just being real about it. I determined that I felt manipulated, that the shocking things she would fess up to were less about being real, and more about getting those popularity ratings, getting the book sold.
I remember reading for the longest time thinking, "this chick can’t really write. It’s just so chatty." I remember sticking with the side of the rules I come from, that you don’t get to be a voice in public until you are perfect or profound or graduate from that top school, or most importantly, deemed amazing by someone else … Which is one of the reasons I became a women’s studies minor, I needed to tap into the real stories, not the pursuit of endless tapping of each other's egos.
I remember thinking - in spite of my feminism - who do you think you are? Why YOU? I remember having an emotional wall between me and Shonda's book because her vulnerability was not true vulnerability, since she was not risking anything financially. If she had written something like this early on, like Anne Lamott with Operating Instructions, before she “made it”, I might have felt myself be more open to Shonda's book.
It could be my German heritage that thinks this way, the skepticism and disdain of America, Americans, American success, American big money, and watching what American big money does. Namely, make things - society - cheap, including this book. Where was her hardship? Shonda's example of being nervous to the point of sweating for a TV talk show, does that count? Whatever happened to true suffering. Or more specifically, mine. Why wasn’t mine getting this much attention. I have taken on scarier fears than her highly financed ones.
Disdain. I had absolute disdain to the point of wanting to stop reading ...
I wish I had known then about this concept about how when we absolutely shred someone else to pieces, it’s a reflection of ourselves, that I was actually shredding myself to pieces, but that, is a different post, and another one of the lessons of my Spiritual Guide. During that time, it was a huge gift while I had my own harsh feelings about myself, and my less than perfect life, to be able to have this reading experience, because:
a the beautiful thing happened. Her voice, book, life story opened me up. I kept reading and about a third of the way into the book I fell in completely radiantly platonic love with Shonda, the book, her voice, her intelligence, perseverance, feminism, intuition, truth, knowing, humor and realness. And success. At some point I was proud of her success, because I had felt her process. I had finally felt her risk, her openness, and just allowed myself to connect with all she gave us of herself to connect with.
It’s the same thing that always happens for me whether it’s women’s studies books, or Maya Angelo reading, or G opening up his inner world to me, or anyone authentically opening up their inner world to me, I know why I was born. Just to BE in that space. That whole space. That healed, whole emotional space.
She/her Voice felt like Tribe for me. Enough resonated with me by that point to know and trust that she was being absolutely real, and that for every event and story, there was an emotional process, whether it was pushing past the fear of a current challenge, or connecting who she was when she was little to why her success as a writer felt like having a birthday every day.
The big piece was that for years I had listened and connected emotionally to her TV show Grey’s Anatomy characters, (not other shows) and now that I knew more about Shonda, I understood why that show was so emotionally fulfilling. Also important to me, is what a warrior she was in creating new space and voice for black women and feminism in a still white male dominated field of screen writing.
I was still designing and wholeheartedly looking to deepen my design career, when I heard about the Master Class with her for screen writing. I think it didn’t matter what Shonda was teaching, I knew I wanted to be in her class. Why not screen writing? Film, movies and TV of a certain emotional level are my first love, so why not do something that is a more powerful source of inspiration than pottery or more flute lessons?
So I took the Shonda’s MasterClass in Screenplay Writing, she instructs that she wants to care when she reads a potential script or memoir, and I am amazed by just now many movies are out there with huge budgets even where I just don’t care, and how Shonda made me care in spite of the (GA) hospital setting.
I still am processing the amazing experience that was her class, and still recuperating how completely annoying it was to meet that many humans who wanted To Write, or maybe just wanted that kind of cash. People who have ambition, headshots, and egos. Wading through all that to find some true people ...
Shonda was the real deal. Everything she said resonated with me so deeply as truth and to my own sense of knowing. I was totally and completely engaged. Shonda operated out of her heart/body, expansive mind, much much less from her head/ego, her practical mind. Or maybe what is more correct is that her writing is out of her expansive mind and her practical mind does the business side - connections, pitching, feeding her business.
So why take this class? It's an unknown to me, as I trust and feel it out ... I know what I have in me, and I know that I needed to experience these slices of Shonda giving lectures about writing, speaking from her intuition and watching someone build a life and career from that. Even listening to her process about romance in her life is life giving because it's so real and it's a work in progress - I say in progress because she is the most romantic person who I (don't) know ... I know I needed to hear truth, see strength and most of all be inspired, be opened up. Be curious, be challenged to do something completely new.
It was a way for me to break out of more conventional rules too. Why not do this? Just because it came out of the Blue ... What I’m left with is a wealth of ideas, homework assignments, notes, designs, a bigger soul and a sharper eye for really seeing ... things. Sharper than before. Because now, on top of seeing things, I write about it. I write about what it looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like … It’s another place where I can feel out my expansive mind, that large heart of mine … Creating more and more connection with myself and outward every day. Shonda’s book was a huge source of inspiration towards being more authentic and not hidden. My own version of saying Yes.