Shonda Rhimes on Grit, Success and Her Latest Project

With three TV series returning this season (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder”) and two debuting (“For the People” and a to-be-named “Grey’s” spinoff about firefighters), Shonda Rhimes is a busy woman. Summer was no exception, since the shows resumed production in July. Still, Shondaland’s chief storyteller (that’s her official title at the production company) added a new project to her plate: Shondaland.com, the website.

“It’s been a whole other outlet, which has been great,” says Rhimes, who interviewed straight-talking Rep. Maxine Waters, among others, for the site. The prolific TV hit-maker plans on contributing frequently: “I’m going to write about what’s going on, things I’m interested in, what I’m thinking about.” Though she wants it to be clear that she won’t be the only writer. “We’re going to have a lot of different voices and stories,” she says. “As we’ve been telling people, the site is about life, not lifestyle—covering politics, culture, news and other issues important to women as well as telling women’s stories.”

Several weeks before flying to Philadelphia, where she’ll be on the main stage in conversation with former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, Rhimes took time out of her packed schedule to share some things she’s learned along the way to becoming one of TV’s most powerful women.  

Having Grit

“I’m an impatient person, and that’s what drove me when I first graduated from school. I had a 9-to-5 job with a wonderful organization—Portals—but it wasn’t my calling. I didn’t want to be there forever. So every evening, I would come home and write. I told myself that you have to write if you are a writer. I couldn’t imagine my life not doing what I loved. That’s how I kept on my path.”

Handling Criticism

“People often say, ‘Just don’t listen to the haters.’ But if you’re hearing the same criticism again and again, from different people, I think it’s valuable to stop and listen. The key is not to internalize what’s being said. For example, I operate my way, and when I hear the same criticism about, say, how I lead, I think, they do it differently, and I’m not communicating something correctly.”

Giving Negative Feedback

“Never attack someone personally. Remember: you’re trying to help that person be the best person they can be.”

Pep Talk for Pursuing Your Dream

“You’re going to die one day. I’m serious. What do you want to have done with your life? That you didn’t pursue your dream? If you do pursue it, and it didn’t work out, at least you tried. But if it does work out…then you are living your dream. You won’t ever live your dream if you don’t try.”

Achieving Success

“Reaching success is just being successful. It doesn’t make you happy or whole, and it doesn’t fix something. Thinking that having a lot of fame or money will change things is naïve. Success is being at peace.”

Shonda Rhimes will be a keynote speaker at the 2017 Pennsylvania Conference for Women.


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