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Adii Pienaar

Family man, seeker and learner. 3X Founder: Cogsy + Conversio (acq by Campaign Monitor) + WooCommerce (acq by Automattic). Ex-Rockstar.

Ep1 - Eliot Peper | Making Sense of the World through Storytelling

Summary

Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels and a practicing independent consultant for several Fortune 100 companies. In his writing, he bends and blends traditional genres to explore the intersection of technology and culture. In this episode, Adii and Eliot discuss the intersection of Eliot’s roles and storytelling, how forgetting can be a superpower, and the importance of labels.

Intersecting Roles

Eliot started writing his first novel simply because he couldn’t find a book like it that already existed. He began by noting the human drama that accompanied working at startups. A lot of books he saw about startups were non-fiction business books, and in that he noticed a gap. While these books could tout accuracy and statistics, they lacked a human element. Eliot sought a fictional representation of the human experience of startups, and thus the Uncommon Series was born.

When you write novels, your life is the material. Splitting his time between writing and working as an independent consultant, it is almost as if Eliot is being paid to research and gain material for his writing. He finds himself trying to work with the most interesting people he can find to solve the most interesting problems.

“Stories are how humans make sense of the world.”

Our identities are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, our cultures are the stories we tell each other, Eliot explains. Stories are much more memorable; they possess the ability to drive home a certain message or feeling, whether that be about an idea, a place, or a person.

Forgetting as a Superpower

Memory is a great filter for what is interesting, and forgetting can be one of the mind’s most powerful assets for a writer. Our memory tends to only pick up on what is important and filters out the rest. When we tell stories born through experience, they tend to leave out the inconsequential or forgettable.

Eliot believes his books to be his creative contribution to the world, his legacy—that which is not forgotten, even after he is gone.

“We have many billions of people on this planet now. So how can each of us create a contribution to each other?”

Why Labels Aren’t Important

Eliot’s Twitter bio says “Novelist.” But that is only a snapshot of who Eliot truly is. After all, who could fit their entire identity into 160 characters?

Labels are very fixed in nature and can be polarizing, but they are also quite important. Labels can help people orient themselves in unfamiliar situations. Take book genres, for example…

Many writers don’t identify their works with a certain genre. It’s not until it reaches the market that it’s given one. And readers use it to adjust their own buying and reading decisions.

That’s not to say labels are all-encompassing. People have many different identities and stories—the label doesn’t necessarily define all of these things, and it doesn't have to. To Eliot, the label of “novelist” in his Twitter bio works as a tag to aid in communication. Nonetheless, he has a sort of irrational fear of labels.

“I know, myself, that no label could contain all of the different things that I am. But my fear stems from the fact that I must be mapping that onto others.”

The question of who you are and what you do can be very difficult to answer, especially with a simple label. But a label works as a jumping off point and can be explored further through a story. Labels help contextualize, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Eliot struggles with labels because of a misplaced fear of limits. Whether that be limiting or restricting himself and others, placing a label—a genre—on a person can feel like building up walls around an individual. These walls make it impossible for that person to escape their label, and the expectations that come along with it. However, in truth, labels can actually create a specific starting point to build upon. Rather than walls, labels are much like a foundation for relationships and communication. There are universal themes in human life, the starting point is specificity.

FIND ELIOT
Website
Twitter

BOOKS
Veil
Breach (the Analog Series Book 3)
Borderless (the Analog Series Book 2)
Bandwidth (the Analog Series Book 1)
Neon Fever Dream
Cumulus
Exit Strategy (the Uncommon Series Book 3)
Power Play (the Uncommon Series Book 2)
Version 1.0 (the Uncommon Series Book 1)

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