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Design Sponge’s Grace Bonney On What She Learned From 100 Boss Ladies

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Grace Bonney

Grace Bonney, author In The Company of Women and creator of Design Sponge.

Christopher Sturman

Grace Bonneyis the brilliant creator behind the website Design*Sponge. She talked to 100 women doing creative work and tells us what she learned by turning those conversations into the new book In The Company Of Women.

The women Bonney profiles are television showrunners, designers, museum directors, potters, poets, chefs, musicians and more. The book features short Q&A’s and portraits of people like Issa Rae, Roxane Gay, Tavi Gevinson, Nikki Giovanni, and Neko Case.

The Nerdette hosts talk to Bonney about the beauty of creative messes, what we’d do if we magically had an extra hour in the day, and the ever-elusive notion of work-life balance.

Plus, a conversation with Jenn White, host of WBEZ's new documentary podcast series, Making Oprah.  We hear about what it was like to sit down for a lengthy conversation with Oprah Winfrey.

On perfection and social media:

“I think we all have responded to Instagram perfection in a way that’s really unhealthy. This book was very much about how we have to embrace both sides of the pendulum. Social media -- and even business books, in general -- tend to be this highlights reel, and I don’t learn anything from that. I would much rather hear all the things that didn’t go well, and how you picked yourself back up. More businesses are launched when you realize that everyone's path is bumpy than if you feel like there’s one way to do that, and it all was seamless.”

On creative messes:

“I so enjoyed the moments when we went into somebody’s studio and it was just a hot mess. And they were like, ‘I would apologize, but I’m not going to, because this is what it’s really like.’ And I was like, ‘Yes! Thank you! I’m so glad to know that you also have like eight coffee mugs that you haven’t washed yet, and that’s totally ok.’ I think that humanizing process was really important because I naturally tend to put people on pedestals. I’ll think ‘Oh, Nikki Giovanni’s never had a bad day in her life,’ which is so ridiculous and untrue. For me, this was a process of learning that every single person has a bad day and a messy desk. We all have it.”

On what she learned from the book:

“I went into this book thinking that I was going to get the secret of work life balance. And then I spoke to so many women, especially older women, who were just like, ‘Why are you wasting your time on that?’ There will always be days where you’re not at work enough, or you aren’t at home enough, or you feel like you can’t get any of those things right.

The idea of standing still and having this perfect balance … it can never happen. Because work is always moving forward, you’re always moving forward, your expectations are always growing. It’s about embracing that movement. As long as you're continuing to step forward, that’s what you should be aiming for, not to stand still. Because then, nothing’s happening.”

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