Author: Justin Meckes

Competition

A friend of mine and I run together a couple times per week. Right now, he’s training for a ten-mile race. Together, we run a fraction of that amount because three miles is just about my limit. I’ve done four but regretted it later. Obviously, he’s the better runner. He’s less winded than I am when we hit the three-mile mark and can usually outrun me in the final sprint. But this doesn’t bother me and there’s a reason. I lift weights and he doesn’t. Pull-ups? Push-ups? I’ve got him beat. When it comes to competition, we often neglect to think about our other skills. That may not be the point in a direct heat but it’s important. Not being able to run faster or lift more than someone else doesn’t mean we’re a loser. It could mean we’re winning at something else. I’ve never been particularly competitive. I wasn’t athletic (or maybe coordinated) when I was young. But I could probably make an argument that I have become extremely competitive with age–at least with …

Coffee

I drink coffee to stimulate, inspire, or to soothe. On occasion, I use it like many others–while socializing in coffee shops. What might be different about my use of coffee is that I see it as a tool. It’s not just a routine Starbucks order. I try to consume it thoughtfully. When I drink cold coffee right before a workout, it’s a stimulant. It acts to decreases muscle pain and increases my performance. This is especially beneficial for early morning workouts. Coffee is my constant companion when I write. I find that it helps focus when I’m creating. I frequently write early so I’ll prepare my coffee maker the night before. In the morning, I just flip the switch and brew. I use coffee to soothe when I need to warm up or relax. I drink a hot cup of decaf on evenings when I want to do some reading or to set the mood for a little downtime. Black coffee is fine by me. In fact, I prefer it that way when it’s cold …

Jump Rope

I haven’t been able to figure out why but, for some reason, jumping rope comes pretty easily to me. Granted, I’m not jumping for excessive amounts of time (e.g. an hour) but I consider a session of 20 minutes to be fairly significant. Contrast this with my ability–or lack thereof–to jog. I’ve worked up to being able to run as much as three or four miles but I never really enjoy it. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. If I hated it, I wouldn’t keep doing it and I run a couple times each week. A better way to describe my views on running would be to say that it causes me a lot more strain than jumping rope. When I first started with a jump rope, I went at it with gusto. I was jumping 20 straight minutes and only stopping when the rope got caught up in my feet, which happened less often as I began to jump consistently. But because jumping rope burns so many calories, I don’t feel the need to avoid …

Film

I spent about ten years trying to make a film that would get noticed by Hollywood-types. I got so far as to have a short featured on the IFC Channel’s Media Lab Shorts Uploaded before realizing that the novel suited me better. That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all interest in film. And it may be no surprise that my focus was on the writing previously, but I’m currently working on learning a bit more about cinematography. It’s possible that filmmaking is as important to me as it ever was because one of the driving forces behind my writing is the possibility of seeing a novel adapted into a film. In fact, the last novel I submitted to agents was written as a screenplay first. I used it as a kind of outline. I’d like to see the writing I do as cinematic. I think it is, in part, because I write by watching the film version in my head, transcribing what I see. I’m not sure if that’s unusual and needs unpacking but that’s …

Missing Keys

I’m not someone who loses his keys often, but it’s happened enough that I’ve decided to settle on one place to keep them. A hook in my kitchen, to be specific. If I’m being completely honest, I’d say that I like having a specific place for all my possessions. And this notion brings to mind a familiar saying of Benjamin Franklin: “A place for everything, everything in its place.” (Speaking of Franklin, he was an early influence on my writing.) Whereas being tidy is important, I believe there’s other reasons to keep things in their place. Having a place for my keys, tools, or just a roll of masking tape, leads to efficiency in terms of putting these items to use. It might seem a little obsessive-compulsive but for me it’s more a type of situational awareness. The main difference is that I’m not aiming to survive an emergency. Instead, I’m just trying to be a successful decision maker. There are reasons I wouldn’t want to fail, right? And decision fatigue can happen, especially after …

Water

There are plenty of reasons to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. It’s been to shown to help regulate appetite, moderate the metabolism, keep you hydrated, and, generally flush and replinish the system. That’s great if you can remember to actually fill the glass and drink it. Once I decided I was going to have a glass of water every morning, I started thinking of ways to make it a routine or habit. This may sound simple, but it wasn’t for me. Mornings can get busy and I found that I was often out of the house having forgotten to drink any water. So, I took what might not be considered drastic action. I set a reminder of the voice-enabled device in my home. At 7 AM a soft, soothing voice alerts me to the fact that it was time to drink a glass. My device pings before it speaks, so I’m surprised it hasn’t had a kind of Pavlovian effect. When I hear a ping of a chime, I go …

Rejection

Between novels, short stories, and, now, a mini-documentary, I find myself submitting to agents, journals, and festivals almost continuously. This means that rejection is a constant companion. And it can be difficult to deal with. When I’m faced with a barrage of “Not for us,” or “No thanks,” it’s important that I keep a level head. Especially because rejection has several meanings, which tend to fall into one of the following categories: Insufficient Quality Excessive Quantity Lack of Compatibility Extreme Exclusivity Admittedly, quality is a depressing reason to be rejected but it’s not the most frustrating. If the work isn’t of a high enough quality it can be improved, so there’s hope. All that’s necessary is more work. Sometimes years of work. When it comes to issues of quantity, we may find that our work has been edged out by similar writing or a piece that has been written by someone of greater stature. In other words, the market is flooded. If work is sent into an agent or journal (or any other entity calling …

Joy

I experienced wide-eyed wonder in my late teens and early twenties while traveling to other contries, but I think the first time I experienced actual joy was when my child was born. This may seem cliché, but I hope the same for you if you’ve not yet had children. And if you’ve been lucky enough to experience joy before the birth of your child, then I would posit that you are indeed a lucky individual. And probably not nearly as jaded as me. Having a daughter has been the most significant event in my life. I was warned I was going “to fall madly in love” and, subsequently, accused of being “over the moon.” I can’t stress enough the amount of happiness that becoming a parent has brought me. Granted, it’s early and it’s already been difficult, at times. I haven’t always gotten the sleep I needed and being unable to console a weeping infant has not necessarily been fun but the joy remains. This is fairly significant considering I may or may not have …

The Lesson of the Stolen Flip Flops

My family goes to the same beach every summer, and we stay in a house that is located one block from the ocean. We walk across the street to the sand, often leaving our flip flops at the end of the boardwalk rather than carry them as we go on a walk. It’s been commonly accepted that no one is going to steal them. The beach access is public but generally we’re in a safe area. But this last visit, I took my flip flops off at the foot of the stairs only to have them stolen. My feet are pretty big, so it’s unlikely someone took them to wear. As a matter of fact, I checked the dunes beside the boardwalk just to see if they’d been cast off as a prank. However, I didn’t look long. I’d purchased these flip flops four years earlier and they were pretty cheap. In fact, they couldn’t have cost me more than $10, which may be why I shrugged when they were gone. Another member of my …

Gin

I can recall having a really good time with a few gin and tonics at a reception after a beach wedding. That event may be the reason I associate gin with the summer. But it could also be just because it’s a clear liquor, and I tend to think of bourbon as my go-to winter beverage. More recently, I had a few gin and tonics over the 4th of July weekend. I mixed the drinks, cut some lime wedges, and added a slice as a garnish. I had a number of mixed drinks that night, but I never became inebriated and enjoyed little more than what I’d refer to as a smooth flush. I’d been looking forward to having that drink for a few weeks before the holiday. So much so that I may have snuck a gin and tonic into a Sunday a few weeks before, which wound up being fine because July 4th wasn’t much different than any day for us. It was rainy and the fireworks were cancelled. There are other times …