A Writer’s Experience with AI

A Writer’s Experience with AI (Getty Images)

When I first heard about what AI was capable of, I thought that my days as a professional writer would be numbered. 

It could write stories that were characteristically similar to my favorite authors, succinctly mirroring tone, voice and style. It could revise paragraphs, generate topics to write about and compile sources quicker than any human could. While ChatGPT 3.5, couldn’t do things like analyze pictures, dissect audio or actively pull information from the internet, writing sounded like the one thing it had down. Even in its infancy, the technology potentially had more writing expertise than I struggled to gain over the course of a decade or more. 

Surely I’d be out of a job one day. 

Think of it like this: Why pay an error-prone and inefficient human to do something that an AI could do with more accuracy, less time and for potentially less money? Amid rising costs, inflation, evolving needs and increasing competition, I’m sure this question is lingering in the minds of people who run companies that pay writers. Honestly, how can it not? 

Luckily, many people currently see AI as more of a tool than a replacement. While that means I get to write another day, it also means that I have to get with the times.  As the technology and the workforce continues to transform, I’ll need to evolve my skills to keep up. 

That’s why I’ve been experimenting with ways the technology can help me in the writing process. 

So far, one of the things I like about ChatGPT is that you can literally have virtual writers workshops with it. When I’m working on a lede or on introductory paragraphs in an article, I often ask the technology if the content is compelling and why. It then provides a few reasons that makes the content strong, suggests areas to improve and even gives specific examples outlining its points. 

As a disclaimer: I don’t always agree with it. Sometimes it wants me to use words like “metamorphose” instead of “change” to make a sentence more engaging even if that doesn’t fit the tone of the piece. Sometimes the revised paragraphs it generates just don’t sound like something I’d write or lack the emotional depth that I’m aiming for. 

Other times ChatGPT’s critiques and suggestions are spot on, especially ones about narrative structure and sentence variation. Another pleasant surprise is when it reflects on strengths of a piece that I hadn’t even considered. 

Judging from my experience so far, I can honestly say that it is a helpful tool, depending on how you use it. But I advise others to keep in mind their audiences, desired goals and their personal writing preferences as they turn to ChatGPT. You don’t have to change your style just because the technology says so. Balance its critiques against what matters to you as a writer. 

Noah Johnson (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow him on X: @noahwritestoo.

Edited by NaTyshca Pickett

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