Here’s too much about me.
It’s been a ride, that’s for sure. But it may explain how I/we got here to this website.
I bounced around the midwest for my formative years (Chicago suburbs, then about an hour north of Milwaukee, then the St. Louis metro area), ending up with a double bachelor’s in Philosophy and World Perspectives. I usually just refer to that second one as Interdisciplinary Studies since it’s more accurate and requires slightly less explanation.
Technically, I also have a minor in Theater… but I never turned in the little card I needed to in order to get course credit for one of the plays I was in.
Throughout my childhood and college years, writing was kind of my superpower. I used it as a tool to help me figure out what was bothering me, journaling when things felt “off.”
Later, I would rely on my writing ability to get me out of less-than-stellar grades in school. It didn’t matter how badly I was doing if I could write my way out of it. (My math grades, unfortunately, reflected this…)
After college, I worked at The Ethics Center at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, as every midwesterner dreams of eventually moving to Florida. And yes, I was a philosopher with a job offer before graduation. Unicorn status, even if it didn’t pay much.
While at USF, I got to sit in on graduate-level philosophy classes (thinking I would eventually pursue a higher degree). My job as Events Coordinator had me creating flyers for public events, maintaining the Ethics Center website, and, the best part: video editing. Inline, VCR-to-VCR editing setup with separate audio channels and fade-ins. It was a bit archaic, even then, but so much fun.
It didn’t last. My incredibly cool boss was constantly at odds with the Administrators at USF-St Pete, who seemed to take joy in undermining any initiative he tried to undertake to better the campus and community.
So my position was eliminated for political reasons, basically, and I was finally an unemployed philosopher. Plus, after watching what Academia looked like behind the scenes, I had no interest in pursuing any higher education.
I did what any unemployed pseudo-philosopher would do: I moved to Key West.
Key West, Florida, had represented an ideal for me since I was about 12 and first visited with my Miami-based grandparents. The vibe was very much something I wanted to be a part of: the laidback weirdness, the warm breezes, and the friendly, open atmosphere. In college, I’d gone there on Spring Break twice. One time, when my car broke down, I called my parents to tell them that this was it. I live here now. I wasn’t going back to school. My mother convinced me that I really needed to get that degree, then I could do whatever I wanted. Ok, fine, and I went back.
But Key West was never far from my mind. Throughout college and while I lived in St. Pete, my mind and sometimes body were on that little 2-by-4-mile island. I told myself that one day, I would move to Key West and become a writer. Totally original, right?
So I moved to Key West. And on the 22nd hour after my arrival (my 10th “visit”), I was offered a job… as a writer. I kid you not. (You can buy the first book here.)
Of course, book royalties didn’t exactly pay island rent, so I job-hopped like any good Key Wester: real estate and mortgage lending; onsite computer tech support; website programming and SEO, back when Keyword stuffing and other dumb blackhat techniques were all the rage; tour guide at The Southernmost House; and probably a few other jobs I’m forgetting. I dunno. I was in the bar a lot.
I left Key West after almost eight years, just long enough to achieve official “Freshwater Conch” status. A Conch is someone who was born on the island. A Freshwater Conch is someone who’s lived there for at least seven years. I clocked in at 7.5.
I also left with another milestone: The Mormon Church banned the second book I co-wrote. It felt like an accomplishment, but since the book was on Utah history and the Church controls just about everything in the state, including bookstores, sales were…. not great. But still! I wrote a banned book! Some writers go entire careers without getting a book banned! (Ed. Note: Yeah, and some can live off their royalties.)
Then it was Austin, TX, the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world. After 7.5 years on an island, it was… I was going to say it was good to be back in civilization, but that’s not true. I’d left my Ideal Place and wasn’t getting over that any time soon. But Austin had music, and I’ve always been kind of a music nerd, so there were definite advantages to life there. (How much of a music nerd? I was really into House music when I was 8 — a benefit of growing up outside Chicago. Why a straight white kid in the suburbs was into the music of refuge for the gay black men on the South Side is something for which I have no explanation.)
I worked at two places (mostly) while I lived there. I won’t say much about the first place, only that it was educational. The kind of place that gets press for all the wrong reasons. I’ll leave it at that.
I did some side work chaos-monkeying for a startup out of NYC, some subcontract work for Google analyzing search engine data before the Panda update, and probably some other jobs I’m forgetting. I dunno. I was in the bar a lot.
And the second place I worked full-time was Apple. I started as Tier 1 MacOS, then Education support, then Wireless Multimedia, and finally, two years as a Senior Technical Advisor dealing with the trickiest problems and thorniest customers. I left after four years.
That’s when I also left Austin, completely burnt out on the ideas of tech and Texas. The promise of Austin as a “weird” place didn’t live up to the life I’d left behind in Key West. Austin Weird was the self-conscious kind of weird that looked over its shoulder for approval and corporate sponsorship for validation. Like a kid who wants attention. Not like the Key West Weird, which exists for its own sake, on its own terms, as a natural expression. Sure, they’ll take your corporate sponsorship money for a Fantasy Fest float and laugh all the way to the bar.
I became a happy wanderer, sort of. I painted houses in the San Francisco Bay Area for a while. I managed a car collection in Wisconsin. I ran a large-scale estate sale, finding buyers for a hidden cache of International Scouts, Range Rovers, a Triumph GT6 Mk3, and parts. Lots and lots of parts. It was a barn-find paradise for a particular type of collector.
During this time of introspection, I remembered what I really wanted to do was write. I wanted to make a living as a writer, which led me to pursue copywriting as a career path.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years, now based in Santa Fe, NM. I took professional development courses from American Writers and Artists Institute. I delved into creating autoresponder email series, SEO-friendly blog posts, landing pages, and case studies. I’ve written for Cray (now a part of HPEnterprise), Motiva AI, and Bring a Trailer, completed SEO site audits (both on straight technical issues and copywriting conversion elements), and been a behind-the-scenes punch-up artist.
And just as my copywriting business was picking up… here comes artificial intelligence.
To be clear, I don’t think AI, ChatGPT, or the latest advancement (probably announced while I was writing this bio) can replace quality human writers. By definition, AI is not original. It’s predictive. It’s average. AI and ChatGPT don’t have empathy, even when you include that instruction in your prompt. The writing it produces doesn’t connect the way a good copywriter can connect. It needs a lot of editing and a lot of babysitting. For now, anyway.
If you’re a terrible writer, ChatGPT’s output will be better. But right now, AI is not a replacement for human creativity. You can even pose the question to ChatGPT, and it will tell you the same thing.
However, AI creates an excuse for those penny-pinching managers who always viewed copywriters as a liability and not an asset to cut their pay or remove them entirely. Why hire a human when ChatGPT can also string words together for, like, $20 a month?
But AI is a handy tool. And it’s a tool that is both just like and quite unlike any other. It’s a tool that can speed up content creation when used by capable people. And it’s a tool unlike any other because what it produces often carries an authority that can be problematic. Authoritative and incorrect. Good enough, for some, maybe, but not actually good.
It is my position that companies that continue to employ human writers — especially the capable ones, the ones who understand the principles of persuasion, the Unique Selling Proposition, and the four U’s — will have a competitive advantage over those companies and penny-pinching managers who’ve always viewed writers with disdain, suspicion, or contempt. (I may have had some experience with this.)
The goal of my website is to stay on top of the rapidly-developing world of AI for content generation. It may expand beyond that at some point. Still, I aim to get my hands on the latest and greatest tools available to copywriters and other content creators and evaluate them skeptically. Let’s see what these products can do. And probably, by the end, they’ll be evaluating me, too. We shall see.
Santa Fe, NM