Shonda Rhimes on Saying Yes to Everything

One of the best books I’ve read this year — indeed, in a while — was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. Rhimes, for anyone who might not know, is the powerhouse writer/producer behind such television shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. In an industry under assault for inequity of pay scale and a significant lack of diversity, Rhimes is a strong, intelligent black woman whose hard work has garnered wonderful success. However her book is not about how successful she is, but rather her year of facing the fears and bad habits that hamstrung her in spite of that success.

Recently, Rhimes recorded a TED Talk, presenting just one small piece of the story she recounts in her book. I offer it up here not just because she is an example of a successful writer but because of the way she presents herself. This is a writer who understands showmanship, performance, rhythm, repetition, and voice. It comes across on her television shows, it shines in her book, and it certainly makes itself known as she stands on a stage in front of a group of strangers and speaks about, among other things, curing her fear of public speaking. So take a few minutes to listen, and maybe then listen again. Not just to what she has to say, but how she says it.

Steal Like an Artist with Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon encourages you to steal in the name of art. Not plagiarize — nothing so mundane (or illegal), but steal and remake, to borrow from the greats who’ve gone before, to take their ideas and make them your own. In his TED Talk below, he explains precisely how he steals like an artist, and how you can too. Wonderfully inspiring stuff, especially for anyone facing a bit of writer’s block — the circumstance that first led Kleon to steal like an artist himself. Enjoy!

On Reading in Translation

One of the wonderful things about both writing and reading is they allow you to open yourself to new thoughts and experiences, to delve into the minds of other people, to immerse yourself in other cultures and fantastical worlds, and to truly discover how truth can be stranger than fiction. To write well, you must crawl into your character’s head space, and when reading a well-written book, you have the chance to do the same courtesy of another author’s efforts.

Ann Morgan recently set herself the task of taking her reading efforts to the next level by attempting to read a work in translation from every country in the world in a single year. At a time when there is so much discussion about representation and diversity in the publishing industry — and in the world at large — her self-set challenge feels appropriate and yet still impressive. Morgan shares both the joys and the difficulties of her year of reading the world in the following TED Talk.

Amy Tan: Where Does Creativity Hide?

In her TED Talk, author Amy Tan discusses how she became a creative person by looking at the layers of her childhood, interests, experiences, and influences, as well as the more mysterious contributions of the universe around her. I hope this thoughtful, entertaining presentation gives you some new ideas about how to tap into your own creative reserves, and a new appreciation for the ways in which inspiration can suddenly strike. Even if you’ve watched it before, it’s worth a second viewing.

The Power of Publishing Platforms

We’ve been taking about diversity in publishing quite a bit, both on the writing end and the reading end of things. This TED talk focuses on what it means to have a voice, and what it means to be heard, as well as the importance of being a good listener. While Andrew Losowsky is talking about the broad scope of publishing, his ideas carry out to all areas of life. His argument really illustrates the importance of developing a publishing industry that includes and respects all types of experiences and points of view. Definitely worth the time to watch. Not only is it an interesting talk, but it might help any of you currently asking yourself how you can include diverse characters in your work-in-progress without trampling on someone else’s culture or story. Enjoy!