People have decried the rise of AI as the beginning of the end. I’m not personally in the robots-will-take-over-the-world camp, but I am a skeptic, and not just because I’m losing clients to ChatGBT.
Loss is parallel to progress. Just like the rise of the automobile helped pave the way for deep vein thrombosis, so too will AI writing tools slowly chip away at our ability to think for ourselves.
A bit dramatic? Maybe, but let’s start at what writing is. Functionally, writing is putting words next to each other to make phrases, sentences, and eventually a narrative in order to communicate.
The most important part of writing, though, happens before words ever appear on the page. Writing starts with a feeling, a notion, a cloud somewhere deep in your brain, an awareness that has to be put down into comprehensible language to be shared. It has no shape, but you know it.
So you sit down and try. You write a sentence and hate it. You write a new one but it’s still wrong. You change a word, move a comma, and it’s not at all what it felt like in your head. So you hit CTRL + A, press delete, and start over.
This time, with all that nonsense out of the way, it’s a little clearer. The first sentence sounds like what it felt like. So you go to the next sentence. That one sounds pretty good too! Amazingly, it leads flawlessly into the third sentence! And wait, what’s this? Is this something you’ve discovered in the fourth? New ideas are taking shape on the page as if you hadn’t even thought them yourself, and they just keep coming.
Now we’re tempted to ask: can AI do this? Can it conjure up unexpected conclusions and connect seemingly disparate dots to reach brilliant insight?
Can you even do this?
Honestly, maybe not.
But focusing on this question is the chief mistake, because the question only focuses on the end result—producing a readable piece.
What is lost is the process. The feeling. The hating. The deleting. The starting over. The finally getting it. And make no mistake, that process is priceless, because it is the only way we are designed to learn—by doing.
Whether you’re a professional content writer or simply using ChatGBT to write a text message you’re not sure how to word, you are missing a chance to get to know your product, or yourself, better via the trial and error of the writing process. Then, a while down the line, when you’ve let a computer do all of the thinking for you, you won’t remember that sweet message you sent your partner on Valentines Day when they reference it. You’ll have a hard time responding to comments on your blog posts, because you’re not totally sure what’s in them. You’ll automatically reach for the keyboard instead of taking a breath to see what you can come up with. Not only will you cheat yourself out of a uniquely human experience, but the world will miss out on the ideas that can only come from you.
Are these the ramblings of a stubborn luddite? Probably. Cars move a lot faster than people, and I’ve been very grateful for their existence over the course of my life. But I make sure to exercise every day, too, so that my body works the way it is designed to.
Use the tools that time provides, but be sure to use all of them, including that big, beautiful brain of yours!