After having read and wholeheartedly loved Strong Is the New Pretty, I was on the look-out for more books featuring empowering women when, lo and behold, this gem came along.
In the Company of Women features an incredibly diverse group of women that are makers, artists and entrepreneurs and questions them about some important creative and personal issues.
I found it truly awe-inspiring. Their perseverance in the face of adversity and their words and actions inspired me deeply.
I took each piece of advice these fearless women imparted and stored it in my heart. I was continuously learning from their impeccable grace, deep talent, braveness, vulnerability and boldness.
And I decide to feature the questions that really made me think or feel so understood and together with the women:
Writer, Magazine Editor in Chief
New York, NYTavi Gevinson being featured here made me want to pick up this collection even more.
What does success mean to you?
Having adequately expressed a thought or feeling.
What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day on the right foot?
Put on a podcast. I need to be engaged with something and listen to people right.
I love how distinct her voice was in this interview.
Oakland, CAIn moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I read shitty Yelp reviews of restaurants that I love and know are amazing. Seriously, I do this sometimes. For me, the cooking becomes meditation: I get in the kitchen and start cooking and tasting, and that reminds me why I’m doing this and that what we are doing is delicious.
HA! I love this response.
Long Island, NYName a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
The biggest professional challenge for me would be trusting anyone other than myself.
Name a woman (or women), past or present, whom you admire or look up to.
It may sound corny, but I really do admire all women. I realized how powerful women are when I was a freshman in college in sociology 101. The lecture that day was to the effect of “when you change the lives of women, you also change family life—and when that core of family values is changed, you’ve changed the world forever.” As a trans woman I now experience what it’s like to be a woman today, and to be able to shine while living in a world that seeks to dim your light is a feat in and of itself.
I really love these questions and answers!!
Brooklyn, NYName the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business.
Trust your instincts! There’s nothing worse than realizing that your first instincts were right and that second-guessing led to a costly mistake. As women we’re taught to second-guess ourselves and to look to others for direction and guidance. Most times my inner voice tells me in a flash what I want and need, and whom to trust. I’m learning to honor that inner voice.
I’ve been thinking this for awhile now but couldn’t put it into words.
Author, Television Host
New York, NYWhat is your favorite thing about your workspace?
My favorite thing is being faced with a blank page and having endless possibilities to say what is on my mind, uncover truths, and share myself with the world, whether that blank page is an essay, a show script, or a book project.
I found this to be such a fascinating answer because blank pages absolutely terrify me.
Product Designer, Entrepreneur
Brooklyn, NYName the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business.
My good friend tells me at least once a year that it takes ten years to achieve overnight success. I think entrepreneurship can be highly romanticized and polished. Few magazines write about the fortitude required to grow a business, and the real challenges faced beyond the spark of “I can do it!” The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to prepare for the long haul, the rise and fall, and let neither define your sense of self.
This was such a crucially important piece of advice for me.
San Francisco, CAName a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
Honestly, none. My twin sister, Jessie, died in 2006 when this business was in seed form. As I was slowly piecing myself back together, I built back all the big stuff first, then found I didn’t have the energy or need for small unnecessary bits. One of them was fear of things I can’t control anyway. This isn’t to say I don’t worry about whether my sketches will be liked or that the shipment won’t arrive in time; just that I know I’ll be breathing even if it doesn’t.
The last sentence!!
West Lafayette, IndianaI recently read Bad Feminist and it completely shifted my worldview, so having Roxane Gay featured here was a heartwarming surprise.
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
I worry that my next essay or story or book won’t be good enough, that I will disappoint my fans or that one day I will wake up and I won’t find the words to write well.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I am lucky to have a support system, by way of a person. Certainly, I can build myself back up, but in truth, there is someone who keeps the faith when I falter and I am comfortable admitting that. This idea of the solitary artist is nonsense. My success can be attributed to my hard work and ambition and the support of my person, who is always there, giving me what I need, whether it’s a pep talk, a warm smile, or a sharp lecture on getting over myself. In terms of building myself back up, I remind myself that I love writing. I write for me before I write for anyone else.
She’s back with her incredible last sentences!!
I’m so ecstatic that Roxane Gay was featured here.
Milan, ItalyWhat characteristic do you most admire in other creative women?
They don’t talk much about their work—they work.
What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?
Gummy bears are not fruit, therapy can be interesting, don’t judge people by their shoes.
This was such an interesting combination of tips!!
Los Angeles, CAName a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
I don’t have anything really tangible that says I have “made it” in comedy—just my name and my memories and the things marked on my calendar. I worry that if I stop for a moment, everything I have created will go away.
An all too familiar feeling.
Minneapolis, MNWhat characteristic do you most admire in other creative women?
The female perspective, in general, is to be admired. We are the eyes and ears of the universe.
Such a mesmerizing saying.
Which of your traits are you most proud of?
My “spirit of discernment.” We all go off vibes, but I can decide if I’m going to vibe with someone within the first ten seconds of meeting a person.
New York, NYHas learning from a mistake ever led you to success?
I make mistakes every day. But we always say, “Mistakes bring good.” Taking on a job that turns out to be a bad fit and quitting the job. You feel a million pounds lighter. Relief prevails.
So, so true.
Laura Jane Grace
MichiganWhat does success mean to you?
Feeling like you created what you wanted to create and it connected with an audience or with one person in the way you wanted it to.
I couldn’t agree more. I love how educating this book feels.
Writer, Illustrator, Actor, Comedian
Brooklyn, NYHas learning from a mistake ever led you to success?
I don’t know if it was a “mistake,” but a big part of the beginnings of the web series Broad City was Ilana [Glazer] and me not getting on house teams at the theater where we were training. I’d auditioned three years in a row, and gotten called back, and I just felt so close. I had such tunnel vision, and getting on those teams felt like the whole world and the only way I was going to advance my career as a performer. So after three years we were bummed. We decided to make something ourselves. We thought we were geniuses; why were we waiting for other people to “let” us do comedy? So we made Broad City. Making that series taught me so much and gave me so much confidence, it’s unbelievable. It’s the old saying, “When one door closes, another door opens”—except you have to build the other door and pry it open yourself. When you do it that way, you’re walking into a place of your own design.
I love her saying about building the other door. This might seem random, but it really reminded me of something similar said in Crooked Kingdom.
New York, NYName a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
I worry that I’m going to get marginalized. I love writing about race, gender, and class, but sometimes it prevents people from seeing that I’m capable of writing about a lot of different topics.
What is your personal or professional motto?
Give yourself permission. I used to think that I didn’t have the credentials to do creative work professionally, and I talked myself out of it for years.
Amherst, MAIn moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that it’s important to your growth as an artist or businessperson to “get out of your comfort zone,” but I find there’s been a very clear difference between stretching my own boundaries when I feel safe and grounded and someone telling me to do something I’m not comfortable with. To get myself out of those situations, I’ve learned how to be direct and assertive. To say, “I understand that you think x is a good idea, but this is my business decision/creative work and I want it to be like y. Maybe someday down the road I will come to a place where I feel like x is what I want to do, but I’m not there right now, and I need you to respect and honor my voice and decision-making.”
I wish there was a different phrase like, “Get out of your comfort zone, but if you start crying a lot and feeling bad about yourself and your art, that is also not good, and you should go back to what you feel like doing and makes you happy,” but I guess it would be difficult to put that on a motivational poster.
YES!! This has been on my mind for awhile now.
Also, Mary Lambert talked about performing at the Grammys with Madonna, Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis, which then made me go look it up, and I got non-stop chills while watching it:
Ashley C. Ford
Brooklyn, NYIn moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I read. I’ve always found the power to regain my strength or confidence in the pages of books. That could mean rereading a favorite book, or finding a new one to fall in love with. Either way, books have always been a solid foundation for me, sturdy ground. If I can find my way there, I can get through anything. I feel buoyed, protected, and understood. Books have saved me more than once. Indeed, they save me over and over again.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
What I learned from this collection was profound and boils down to this: women’s enthusiasm, compassion, stamina, patience, persistence, and courage can change the whole wide world.
And to finish off this review, here are some of the main things I learned from all these incredible women:
- natural lightning in your work space is crucial.
- ask for the money first.
- going out in nature.
- being your own boss can get lonely .
- missing a lot of family events (birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc.) for work.
- travel is the best way to find inspiration.
- keep records of everything.
- knowing when to say NO is a really important trait.
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