Brian Meeks is a full-time writer and coach who writes under his name and the pen name Arthur Byrne. He is the author of the Henry Wood Detective Series and Two Decades and Counting.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
Ames, Iowa. In a neighborhood where people stayed married, worked at Iowa State University, and their kids rode bikes, played in the streets, and went on grand adventures at the park, we grew up happy. As long as we were home by dinner, everything was fine.
A Young Crush by Brian D. Meeks
It was fifth grade…
…and I was about to make my biggest move.
Friday was the last chance. Would she say “yes” to the most important question ever asked from one boy to a girl, “Will you go on the moonlight skate with me?”
What I don’t remember is if I asked in person or through a note. Fifth grade was more a time for notes, I imagine, but I remember the answer. And it would be the start of a day and half of perfect bliss. Marty Kiser, Doug Ward, and Paul Collison were all rooting for me, though I suspect Marty might have been faking it.
He liked Teri, too.
There were plenty of cute girls in Mr. King’s class, but there was only one pair of twins. Teri and Tracy were the prettiest fifth graders ever and from one week to the next, the four of us had crushes on one or the other. We were all head-over-heels for whichever Holtz twin was the one that week.
It wasn’t as cavalier as it sounds.
Both girls were wonderful in their own ways, but the math was such, that with four boys and only one pair of twins, it was a constant battle to try to figure out who liked who and to try to plan accordingly.
Marty was tall.
He was the tallest boy in class and had been for years.
The assumption was, he was the coolest of the four of us. He might have been. Marty and I were more rivals than friends. We didn’t like each other. I was jealous of his tall, he didn’t like that I crushed him every day in speed math. Mr. King, our fifth-grade teacher gave us bonus math if we got our regular math done. He would time it.
I loved bonus math.
In front of Northwood Elementary school, a sidewalk went down a slight decline. At the time, though, that gentle hill was more of an Olympic bobsled course, sans curves. At the bottom, a sidewalk crossed, and just two houses up on the other side of the street, lived the Holtz Twins.
We all had skateboards and other than the math, what I remember is trying to conquer the hill. The challenge was to fly down toward the street and possible death below and make the turn. It required balance and timing. Most attempts early on ended up with a crash and roll through the tiny patch of grass and into the street.
The great times began when someone came up with the idea of tandem boarding. One sat on their board while the other person (Teri or Tracy) would be on the other. Then you held hands. The pair would scream down the hill at a speed approaching the sound of laughter and then at the last moment lean try to make the turn.
The crashes were epic.
Ending up in a pile with either Teri or Tracy was the second-best thing ever.
Holding hands was first.
Now, it was Friday and Teri had said she would go on the Moonlight skate with me. The joy was instantaneous, the fear came later. For the rest of that day and most of the next, I imagined REAL hand holding with that disco ball overhead.
Surely, this is how the great love stories in history started.
That day the twin with the few extra freckles said, “Yes,” to me, not Marty.
It was also the start of logic-based romance and the perils that go with it. My mind, skilled in “what if” scenario forming, took it to a new level. There were all sorts of hand-holding perils. Sweat was one of them. Falling down didn’t concern me, though, because I played hockey. Skating was as easy as walking. “What if she was just being nice?”
Lots of pretty girls like to be nice to me.
That doesn’t mean they want to skate to the slow song under the magical ball of twinkling hope.
All-day Saturday, I worried. And, if I’m being honest, every day since then. If we learned anything from that “yes,” it’s that girls are scary. They hold the power to crush our dreams. Those wonderful, sweet, spring day, hand-holding dreams.
The biggest problem was the fear of loss.
Up until the moment that the needle touched down and the lights dimmed, I was the cat in Schrodinger’s box, both loved and loathed.
Once the box was open there wasn’t any going back.
Is it better to love quietly to oneself with the hope you might one day get the girl or to get to the bottom of things? It depends, but mostly my experience has been that the pain of rejection burns white-hot. We (the hopeless romantic) recover, but the weight in the pits of our stomachs doesn’t get any easier to take.
Marty might have been tall, but I could skate.
All evening we skated and laughed until almost the end. Paul and Doug kept on me about being confident. Marty made sure I knew that I’d probably screw it up. As the nervousness grew, the little grey cells went into overdrive doom mode and by the time we were one or two songs from the moonlight skate, I was done.
Through one of my messengers, Paul or Doug, a message was sent to the twins. Meeks was not well.
Marty was right.
I blew it.
Teri was mad. I don’t remember for how long, but that was my chance and there wouldn’t be another one. Sixth grade came and went.
Once Junior High started the twins were off to their new, much cooler (and likely taller) friends. My heart still leapt each time I’d seen either of them in the halls. Teri and Tracy always had nice smiles for me.
At 53, the wound is almost healed.
Girls are still scary, especially the ones with a couple of extra freckles.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
My parents weren’t lying when they said I was smart.
I never believed them, in part, because my powers of reasoning suggested that it was their job to tell me that. Therefore, their biased opinion of their first child couldn’t be trusted as a reliable source.
When I was 29, I got a second opinion, and it changed my life.
I’d just moved to the DC area to start a data analyst job.
During the week, as I didn’t have any friends, I went on walks and read some local papers I found in Dupont Circle. An article mentioned that it was MENSA’s annual free testing weekend.
My entire life I’d been fascinated by MENSA and loved doing their puzzles. Without anything better to do, I drove to the site to take the free tests. It turned out to be both the MENSA test and the Wonderlic test, passing either would get you into the club.
Now, I knew that one needed to have an I.Q. in the top 2% to join, but I also knew I’d gotten C’s most of my life.
Still, I wanted to see where I stacked up.
Sadly, one didn’t get to find out the results on the day of the test. They would be mailed in the next month.
I threw myself back into the new job and forgot about it.
When the envelope arrived, I almost didn’t bother to open it, as it had been a long day and I was exhausted. I mustered the energy and gave it a peek.
I was in.
It turns out my parents were right.
From that point on, I had this overwhelming self-confidence that I could figure out anything. I taught myself a couple of computer languages, mastered Excel, and came up with some studies at work that led to several promotions.
It made me fearless.
That mindset let me choose to become an author when at the time, I hated writing, as it had always been my worst subject. What I loved, though, was telling stories. So, I figured it out.
What would have happened if I’d learned I had a better brain than I thought early on?
I don’t know.
But I’m who I am because of the journey I’ve taken, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
In publishing, new authors seek out advice often.
The WORST thing I hear all the time when they ask how to write a book description for Amazon is to “Go look at the best sellers and do what they do.”
Here’s the problem, the best sellers and everyone else, all do it the same way. They write a synopsis of the book.
Four years ago, I delved into the art of copywriting and made a discovery: Everyone is doing it wrong!
Ebooks, priced at $4.99, will convert on paid clicks at a 1:30 rate.
The descriptions I wrote after learning copywriting converted at 1:12. At the time I had over 500,000 clicks worth of statistically significant data.
I continued to study art.
Now, the descriptions I write convert in the 1:8 – 1:10 range and I believe I can still improve.
The moral of this story is to NEVER assume the top people in the game have it all figured out perfectly.
We can always find better ways.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
It wouldn’t say it was a dark period, necessarily, because if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t NOT live through those years, but from 2009 – 2015, I was living below the poverty line.
It was by choice.
I wanted to succeed as an author and I decided to only work part-time, so I could write more. I ate a lot of eggs and Ramen noodles, but I wasn’t unhappy. I was just broke.
Still, those years let me get to full-time author.
This led to building a thriving copywriting business.
And to where I am now, waking up every day knowing “Pants are optional.”
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Doing an analysis of everything.
I’m always looking for discoveries that will help me succeed.
The first step is to question the normal assumptions and I got that from reading The Goal, which I mentioned above.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up when I’m done sleeping.
Sometimes that’s 4:00 am, sometimes 5:30 am rolls around and I’ve not gone to bed. I sleep when I’m tired.
When I do get up, though, the first step is to make a cup of Bullet Proof coffee, with two tablespoons of grass-fed butter, a spoonful of stevia, and two dashes of cinnamon.
This helps me stay in ketosis, which is another thing that’s changed my life.
I’ve been struggling with having some extra weight and changing my diet to healthier eating, more exercise, and Keto has been wonderful.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I’d say getting my Fitbit and staying on top of being active.
I belong to a group of authors who compete each week to get the most steps. Having a tribe is important in this business and I have a couple.
If you don’t, when you’re an author, it can get lonely.
That leads to lower productivity.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I track my time and goals in Excel.
This 10-question interview goes in the “Work Time” category because it’s something that relates to business. I always accept interview requests because one never knows what fruits will come of it.
Note: This took 40 minutes and if you made it to the end of this interview…
…you’ve just experienced the POWER of copywriting.
In an age of fractured attention spans from “liking, loving, Grrring, etc” on Facebook and then power scrolling on, to get someone to read 2,400 words takes a bit of doing.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
My answer just changed in the last month.
I would have responded The Goal by Eli Goldratt, a novel about manufacturing theory that has sold over 7-million copies. The story is great, but the thinking methods changed how I look at everything.
As of Jan 3, 2021, the day I’m answering these questions, The Goal, in paperback, is in the top 5,000 overall on the Amazon store.
It was first published in 1984!
Now, at 53, having just listened to Matthew McMconaughey’s, Greenlights, I’d have to go with this book on living one’s best life. I was a fan of his before the book, now I know him much better and like him all the more.
Again, it has changed how I think.
I’m just now starting to listen to it a second time.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Golf is a good walk…spoiled.” Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)
As an author, I love words. I especially adore how the exact right combination, factoring in more than just meaning, but sound, number of syllables, the cadence of the sentence, can make one’s day.
Or they can make you cry.
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” – Often attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, but that’s not true. It predates the urban myth, which is good because I hate E.H.
Regardless, it’s a brilliant use of emotion and intrigue. Words can make one think.
And whoever penned this brilliant story did it in the most powerful way.
Thanks for reading!