I love this Steve Jobs clip from Brie Wolfson: “Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done. And then try and bring those things into what you're doing.” It reminds me of Ira Glass’s beautiful riff on taste and George Saunders on revision.
Taste is a skill. If you pay attention to what you like, and why you like what you like, you will be able to improve what you make until you like it.
And now, books I love that you might too:
The Actual Star by Monica Byrne is an epic tale of self-discovery that spans millennia and questions the very meaning of civilization. Born of extensive research into Mayan history and culture, this wildly ambitious speculative adventure will challenge you to reframe the past, present, and future.
Keep Going by Austin Kleon is a guide to overcoming creative obstacles that is as entertaining as it is useful. Dense with fascinating examples and quotable passages, Kleon’s writing about creativity will kindle your creativity, inspiring you to make things you’re proud of for people you care about. I found it so helpful that I’m going to include it as a resource in my advice for authors.
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is a compelling history of the birth of the field of epidemiology that will change how you think about discovery and innovation. Johnson tells the story of how the famous 1854 cholera outbreak in London sparked a revolution in scientific understanding of disease that revealed the crucial role of urban infrastructure in public health.
Bonus recommendation: This podcast interview with Hans Zimmer about composing the soundtrack for Dune offers such a compelling glimpse into the creative process that now I need to rewatch the movie.
Things worth sharing:
From my work-in-progress: "Crisis stripped you down to your essence, forced you to confront whatever dynamic was really at work within you, the source of your power and your suffering, a truth too darkly radiant to approach any way but edgewise."
TechCrunch featured Veil in their annual best books gift guide.
Because so much of the internet is fleeting—tweets falling in the endless feed like so many autumn leaves in a gale—when you publish something online, seek to make it of lasting value. Lasting value is an aspiration, not a guarantee, but it's a differentiating aspiration. Share on Twitter.
I just reviewed the latest batch of cover concepts for my forthcoming novel (details to come) and they look so good. I can’t wait to show them to you.
Pull a Single Thread, and the Universe Unravels: “When writing, the narrower your focus, the farther you can venture in its pursuit. Any individual feature of the world is an aperture to its entirety. Derive generalities from specifics. Use the particular to reveal the universal.”
TG Shenoy recommended Bandwidth in this article about science fiction novels that explore the intersection of culture, technology, and politics.
I gave a guest lecture to an entrepreneurship class at UC San Diego on storytelling for founders. It’s always a joy interacting with students, and these were no exception. You can listen to my podcast interview with Adii Pienaar where we explore similar themes.
A wonderful newsletter about writing short stories from master of the craft, George Saunders.
People aren't just people. Each of us is a civilization, an ecosystem, a universe unto ourselves. Trillions of cells dancing to an impossibly complex tune. Humans aren't unitary creatures, but waveforms rolling through the medium of life. A person is an organizing principle. Share on Twitter.
Roshan Paul and Ilaina Rabbat, subscribers to this humble newsletter, published a new book about building a career that optimizes for social impact.
From my conversation with Cory Doctorow about writing Walkaway: “The people you know are representative of the world: generally good, sometimes careless or selfish, and, on the whole, wanting to make things better for everyone.”
Thanks for reading. If you love my writing and want to support it, invest in my creative process so I can do more of it. Oh, and tell your friends. We all find our next favorite book because someone we trust recommends it. Culture is a collective project in which we all have a stake and a voice.
Eliot Peper is the author of Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0. He publishes a blog, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.
"Technologists are inventing the future—a future cut through with their own flaws and hubris as much as it is informed by their ingenuity. Veil imagines a world in which truth, politics, and nature itself are at the mercy of human engineering, for better and for worse. This is an adventure that will stick with you long after you reach the end."
-Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, on Veil
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