I’m fully aware that I’m late in reviewing In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs. So be it. Over the last eight months since receiving the book as a Christmas gift from my husband Martin, I’ve carved out chunks of reading time during sick days from work, mornings before my twins wake up, and lastly, a seven-hour roadtrip from Chicago to Omaha sandwiched between said toddlers. I survived that experience, and gleefully shouted, “I’m finally done with the book!” to my crew from the backseat of our rental minivan.
I enjoyed inhaling brilliantly realistic insights from the lovingly curated, thoughtfully edited pages by Design*Sponge Founder Grace Bonney. The 100 interviews surfaces words of wisdom from creative visionaries including Rifle Paper Co founder Anna Bond, author Roxane Gay, and Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna to name a few. One of the reasons it took me so long to finish savoring the book was because I looked up each and every one of these gals to learn more, check out their work, and follow them on Instagram.
If you’re a creative type who’s feeling a wee bit stuck, this book is for you. Featuring 350 pages of well-designed, photo-driven, pull-quoted Q&A interviews, it’s the kind of book you can easily pick up with monthlong delays in between. I found inspiration in Every. Single. Interview. But as a fan and frequent producer of listicles, I’m here to surface my top 10 quotes, in no particular order.
1. You have permission to revel in a boatload of interests.
“It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do. All your interests are important and you’ll find a way to make them work together — so keep yourself doing everything you enjoy!”
— Abbi Jacobson, who co-created Broad City as a web series after being rejected by a theater house team, where she trained for three years
2. Just do it already.
“I’m a go-getter. Ninety-five percent of the things I’ve wanted, career-wise, I have gone after myself. You can’t sit there and wait for things to fall into your lap. You’re in charge of your life, so go after what you want.”
— Joy Cho, Founder of Oh Joy!
3. Do the thing you love even though people say it’s dumb.
“When I started blogging in 2009, I had several people tell me that blogging was dead and not to waste my time starting a blog. I was told that the blogs that were already big would stay popular but it was too late to grow a blog into a business. I ended up forging ahead with my blog because I loved doing it — in the end, it has paid off.”
— Justina Blakeney, Founder of The Jungalow
4. Cut the bullshit and stand up for your life.
“Something changes in you when you become a mum, where you’re like, ‘No more BS. I don’t have time for this. I have a short period of time to be working, or else I’d like to go home.’ You become a freaking lioness about your children, but also about yourself and your time and your abilities because you want to be a good role model too. I changed a lot about things I say yes to, things I say no to, and what I think is worth my time and what I think is not.”
— Aarti Sequeira, Chef
5. Deadlines are good for you.
“I’ve started so many writing projects that I will never finish, just because I get discouraged or lazy or bored. I admire other creative women who say, ‘I’m going to finish no matter how horrible this piece of shit is.’”
— Issa Rae, actor, writer, and director
6. Accept the fact that it’s time to get down to business.
“No matter how creative you are, your thing won’t work if you don’t understand what makes a business work — and a business is what you want to start.”
— Liz Lambert, hotelier
7. Get out of your own way.
“Just under twenty years ago, I was newly paralyzed and, at that point, still very discouraged by my new physical limitations. It was hard not to feel defeated by the loss of all the things I used to be able to do. So if I could talk to myself twenty years ago, I would tell myself to focus on my strengths, and not on my weaknesses; on the things that I could do and not the things I couldn’t do; to strive to excel and hone those skills to the point of excellence. That this was the best strategy to secure my future. I would say to myself that the only real obstacles you have are those you create for yourself.”
— Mariam Paré, artist, designer, speaker
8. Tell your story with heart.
“A brand extends so far beyond its products: it consists of a voice, a viewpoint, a sense of design, a life philosophy, the personalities of its leadership, and of course storytelling. No one can rip off authenticity, and that’s been comforting to us as a small business.”
— Hopie Stockman, textile designer of Block Shop in Los Angeles
9. Work smarter not harder.
“The biggest mistake I’ve made as a freelance writer is saying yes to too many projects. I grew up poor and have no one to fall back on; it’s entirely up to me to earn a living, and I used to panic about not having enough work. There were a couple of weeks where I stayed awake until four a.m. working only to wake up at eight a.m., and be back at it, and I legitimately felt like I was going insane. I cried about every assignment, and since I pride myself on not missing deadlines, I was too afraid to ask my editors for help. I’ve never turned in sloppier work or felt more defeated. After I recovered, I decided that as strange as it sounded, it made more sense for me to take larger projects for more money instead of smaller projects that I worked on daily for smaller paychecks. It still scares the shit out of me sometimes, but it’s a decision that helps me work smarter.”
— Danielle Henderson, writer
10. Lean into the scary stuff.
“Know fear, and honor it. When you feel fear, that’s when you are growing.”
— Dominique Browning, author and activist