Many write. Few put in the years of practice it takes to write well.

Fewer still write with a level of clarity that exploits the full power of words. “Easy reading is damn hard writing,” as Nathaniel Hawthorne put it.

I’ve been practicing damn hard full time since 1990—as an award-winning journalist, a freelance writer, a creative writer, a copy editor, and finally a brand-focused freelance copywriter. At the heart of all my work is a powerful clarity that comes from my orderly mind and technical command of the language.

Western Massachusetts is my home base

We call it “the Valley,” short for the Pioneer Valley. But you can be anywhere. My clients are local, national, and international.

My career path? Anthropology didn’t work out

After majoring in cultural anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I went straight into a minimum-wage job at a camera shop. An avid photographer, I had thought about going to photography school. But I soon stumbled into news reporting instead. And I do mean stumbled.

I went to an interview for what I thought was a job as a photojournalist, only to find out that they actually wanted a reporter. I said, “I can do that.” I covered an important town meeting that very night — after running home to review the notes I’d saved from my one college class in journalism. The next morning, I had a byline on the front page and a new job.

Have I mentioned that I’m a quick study?

In the ensuing years, I had the opportunity to cover topics as diverse as whale research, homelessness, and the AIDS epidemic.

I eventually parlayed my precision as a writer into a decade of full-time copyediting, starting with book manuscripts and eventually running the copy desk of a major consumer magazine.

When it was time to change direction again, I realized that journalism and copyediting came together very nicely in copywriting.

Cigarettes and Swiss cheese?

I also remembered that marketing was in my blood.

My grandfather was a big deal at Leo Burnett, the famed Chicago agency, in its early days. My mother swore he had a hand in creating the Marlboro Man. How’s that for bad karma! Among his accounts was Kraft Foods, and I’m told it was he who suggested putting holes in Kraft’s then newfangled processed Swiss cheese.

Those holes must have looked good on my grandfather’s resume, but frankly, I wouldn’t want them on mine. Today, the holy grail of marketing is authenticity. And it’s a good thing, because I don’t think I could have made the leap from writing about homelessness and AIDS to spinning fake holes in fake cheese. (Sorry, Granddad!)