Eliot Peper is an Oakland-based author and strategist. He writes novels that explore the intersection of technology and society, which have been praised by The New York Times Book Review, Popular Science, Businessweek, and more.
As an independent adviser, he has helped build technology businesses, launch publications, make venture investments, pioneer new media formats, and more.
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1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I write science fiction novels that explore the power and consequences of technology.
For example, Bandwidth stars hackers and spies grappling over how ubiquitous digital feeds shape our lives and politics and Cumulus imagines a San Francisco Bay Area dominated by a tech monopoly and ravaged by economic inequality.
That might sound dark, but my novels are ultimately about people coming together to build a better future.
2. What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My work is self-directed and my days vary enormously.
I recently spent five weeks walking the five hundred mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through northern Spain. I trekked through the mountains all day and then holed up in a village guest house with my laptop and wrote the climactic scene of a new novel.
3. What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I try to sleep at least eight hours every night and make time for exercise, creativity, play, reading, and human connection every day. Every five years, my wife and I take a one year sabbatical to travel, reflect, and find new perspectives. We’re currently midway through one of those sabbaticals and I’m writing this from a café in Lima, Peru.
4. What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
When I start something, I finish it. Finishing projects is enormously empowering and propels me forward with tremendous momentum into new projects. It’s a snowball effect for creativity.
I follow my curiosity. I used to read books that felt “serious” or “important.” I constantly found that I didn’t have time to read, and that when I did, it felt like work.
Then I switched things up and whenever something piqued my interest, I’d lose myself in that rabbit hole until my enthusiasm waned, and consequently waxed for something else. Now I read fast and my intellectual curiosity is insatiable. It’s the primary guidepost that informs my work and life.
5. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller exemplified how every creator should take the extremely long view in order to maximize their contribution to the culture.
Richard Power’s The Overstory made me reframe my understanding of humanity’s relationship with nature. Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist showed me how personal growth is at the heart of every hero’s journey.
Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones changed what I thought stories could be. Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing challenged me to rethink how to build an audience for creative work.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth reminded me of the pure joy of transportive adventure. For more books I love that you might too, see my monthly reading recommendation newsletter.
6. Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Be kind to yourself and others. Lend a hand to others trying to forge their own paths. Notice things you want to exist in the world, and then make them. Share work you’re proud of with people you care about. Enjoy the ride.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!