LIVING + WORKING IN LONDON: SONDER & TELL

Sonder & Tell are a team of strategic thinkers and storytellers who create content that ‘cuts through the noise’. We sat down with Emily and Kate, S&T’s Founders, to see how they cut through the noise of city living, deal with burnout and draw inspiration from the city. What about…

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Sonder & Tell are a team of strategic thinkers and storytellers who create content that ‘cuts through the noise’.

We sat down with Emily and Kate, S&T’s Founders, to see how they cut through the noise of city living, deal with burnout and draw inspiration from the city.

What about city living do you find hard to deal with?

K: That being busy has become a bit of a boast. The obsession with diarising everything. The way a drink with a friend turns into a pin-ball game of dates being thrown back and forth until you reach the point where it’s June and one of you suggests “week of 18 dec? X”.

E: I love living in London and wouldn’t trade it for anywhere in the world. The only time I question what I’m doing here is when stuffed under a stranger’s armpit on the tube so close to someone’s face I’m breathing in what they ate that morning. (You can only hope it wasn’t boiled eggs.)

You are both writers – how does London affect your productivity and creative process?

K: On the one hand there’s so much creative stimulus here – so many characters! It helps a tube journey pass quicker if you look around and imagine all the different scenarios and stories playing out in people’s heads. But on the other, I do think real creativity needs some quiet. It can be really hard to actively not do in the city. To leave time free, to allow yourself to feel bored – and see where your mind takes you.

E: Originality. There are so many words thrown at you throughout the day – on the tube, email newsletters, packaging. Suddenly you’re quoting a deliveroo ad as if it’s the next line to your novel. As Kate said, sometimes you need to get away from all the noise to have original ideas.

What does burnout mean to you?

K: I think it has something to do with functioning on autopilot. When you’re going through the motions of all the things that you know you have to do – like eating, sleeping, working, but you’re not engaging with any of them. I know when I’m taking on too much because I start feeling really flat – not happy or sad or stressed but just meh. That’s always a sign to slow down.

E: Letting things go too far. It’s ignoring those warning signs – flashing lights, the smell of rubber – and continuing to drive until one day you’re at the garage having to get an MOT (or worse at the scrap heap).

What do you do to stay feeling in balance in London?

K: Swimming is basically the only thing that helps me when I’m feeling out of balance. (I’m writing this and imagining Emily rolling her eyes because I don’t stop talking about it.)

I think when you’re not sporty at school you can write off all forms of exercise, or at least that’s my excuse for the years in which I moved very little. I started swimming on a whim, and it made me feel lighter almost immediately. Everyone knows exercise is good for them but I think too much of the conversation focuses on the physical rather than mental benefits.

E: To be totally honest, I don’t think I’ve got a handle on my burnout. My stress comes out in my body rather than my mind. If it’s a hard week at work I have an upset stomach, a sore back, shoulders up to my ears. I ignore it until one day I can’t ignore it anymore – then I’ve got the vitamins out, I’m off to a massage, eating healthily, going to yoga until I feel like I’m better and then forget it all. I’ve got this chair in my bedroom which I throw clothes on – it piles up and up and up until one day they fall over the floor and I’m forced to tidy them away into my cupboard. Then it starts all over again. I’m a bit like that with burnout.

What do you think you can improve about the way you live in London?

K: Getting out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off in the morning. I’m a chronic snoozer and I know I’d feel less groggy if I got up straight away but something about the duvet feels so…

E: Exercise. I think I’m one of the last people in the world that doesn’t reap the rewards of an exercise regime.

How did London influence the work you did for AVER’s brand bible, story and voice? 

K: The voice had to be dynamic – like the kind of person who would book tickets for a night out and bring all the energy, but who you could also spend a quiet night in with. Because I think London is both of those extremes and everything in between.

E: At the heart of Aver’s story is this love/hate relationship with the city that a lot of Londoners will relate to. It’s a place that builds you up and lights your fire, but is also low key burning your edges. Somewhere you’re supposed to be totally fired up by day and then getting your 8 hours of REM sleep at night (with a 15-20 minute positive sexual experience as an extra tick on your productivity to do list). Aver is about Londoners taking a bit of control back in the relationship.

Not breaking up with the city but learning how to live with it in a positive way.

Who’s BOOST and who’s CALM?

K: Working in such a close partnership you have to learn to play off another person’s energy and I think we do that really well. It took us a little while to find our groove. Emily is naturally a little more extroverted and likes to talk through ideas; I tend to go silent and stare when I’m thinking which is probably weird to be around. We’ve reached this balance in our relationship and I think we are both boosting and calming to each other, at different times. And I think that’s what all relationships should be about, really?

E: Being in a partnership means you don’t both have to be in boost mode constantly. She can boost (and answer the question) while I calm. So what she said.