Shonda Rhimes Says Yes to Life in New Memoir

Shonda Rhimes proudly displays her book, Year of Yes. Getty Images

For most of the television season, my Thursday nights belong to Shonda Rhimes. Like millions of other Americans, I’m glued to the television following the exploits of Olivia Pope, Analise Keating and any other number of characters that she has created.

Rhimes is a well-known show runner for ABC and runs her own production company, Shondaland. She has created blockbuster shows such Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.

She’s also written movies such as Crossroads and the critically-acclaimed HBO film, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Rhimes is also a proud mother of three daughters.

She is a powerful change maker and often only Black woman (and the only Black person or woman) at the proverbial table with the most powerful white men in the television industry.  Indeed, when Rhimes accepted the Producer Guild Association’s Norman Lear Award for Achievement in Television in January 2016, she affirmed her artistic vision while also calling out those in the television industry who see diverse programming as some sort of niche market: “It’s not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is. Women are smart and strong. They are not sex toys or damsels in distress. People of color are not sassy or dangerous or wise. And, believe me, people of color are never anybody’s sidekick in real life.”

Clearly, Shonda Rhimes is a badass who is unafraid to speak truth to power.

But she wasn’t always like this.

Saying Yes to Yourself


Rewind to 2014. Sure, even then,  Rhimes looked like someone that had it all together. She was an acclaimed writer and producer. However, although she was wildly successful and had a beautiful family, she was also a workaholic who did very little else besides take care of her family and do her job.

While she was perfectly happy with some parts of her life, she was perfectly miserable in other areas.

Sound familiar?

There are probably any number of women (and probably some men) who can relate to the feeling of being overcommitted, overworked, and overwhelmed by life.

And for those people, Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person is the self-help book you never knew you needed.

The book is part-memoir, part self-help, part feminist polemic.

It all starts after her sister Dolors pointed out that she never accepted invitations. Rhimes started to think about how she could be living her life more fully.

This is where the Year of Yes comes in.

Rhimes decides to say “yes” to a bunch of scary things that has always says no to: public speaking, fancy invites, social outings. She says to “yes” to improving her health and stress by working out, removing toxic relationships, and being truthful to what she really wants out of her life. One particularly important revelation was that while Rhimes knew she liked being in relationships and even loved weddings, she was completely uninterested in getting married. After coming to the realization that writing was her first love, Rhimes recognized that the traditional “fairy tale” was not for her.

Rhimes told Variety how saying “yes” even helped improve her work, “Prior to this year, I was more of a writer than a producer in the sense of I was more comfortable behind my keyboard and in an editing room than I was on a soundstage. I always had to force myself to do it because I’m naturally shy. I’m not a standing in front of you, in your face person. I think what really changed was because I am willing to have difficult conversations, because I am willing to tackle things that felt like that they might be uncomfortable and deal with any problem, that changed. In a great way, that made for some really amazing relationships that were much closer than they had been before — and much more productive and positive.”

Although Rhimes’ life is much more storied than the average woman’s life, many of the issues she faces are very common.

Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed? Who hasn’t felt overworked? Who hasn’t encountered toxic relationships? Saying yes to self-care, yes to scary but empowering choices, yes to fun, yes to living life to fullest are things that can improve anyone’s life.