Will new AI programs replace the art of writing?

OpenAI’s artificial intelligence writing program ChatGPT can compose poetry, prose, song lyrics, essays, even news articles. That has ethicists and educators worried about the program’s ease at replacing human ideas with chatbot-generated words. I can already hear the concerns of educators. What about the process of writing your first term paper? Isn’t that an important part of learning?

In the history of our species there have been a number of reasons to create writing so we could record history. The first hieroglyphics were used by Egyptian priests to record important events like wars or stories about their gods and Pharaohs. These were also used to decorate temples and tombs. Writing has been used to communicate with future generations, entertain others as art (poetry, plays, prose, stories), for history and business. For most of these purposes an AI program would have sufficed to communicate. Most of us may not need to learn how to write a poem, an essay or a term paper if we have no interest and we will never need that skill again. The skill we all need and seems to be sorely lacking in our world today is critical thinking.

For most, writing a term paper may be a useless exercise, but for some of us, writing is a lifeline to sanity. I have made a practice of keeping journals my entire life. This practice of self-analysis has always helped me think through what I am experiencing and process the reasoning behind my choices, my way of delving into something I want to know more about within myself.

Now, after a few serious brain injuries, writing is my lifeline to my former self; how I connect the two worlds, the person I used to be and who I am today. My fine mind has served me well, but now it is exhausting and confusing for me to sit down at my computer and put ideas and feelings together in writing, and yet I believe this is an essential exercise in me still being me. No AI program can do this for me, and it is so worth the effort.

The process of creating is vital to the human brain. Films, music, books, poems, works of art can all be programmed into AI today, but should they be? What about the lived experience of each of us? What about the emotions of living a life?

Writing was created for a purpose, and it has served humanity in so many ways. I feel certain that will continue.

Please keep writing, but with fewer words…

writing penI seem to be cursed with an undeniable need to edit and critique the writing of others. Everywhere I look I see misuses of our marvelous language. When I worked as an editor for a few years I finally got in touch with my inner English teacher. Red pen in hand, I labored over the writing of others to make them and me look better. But lately I can’t help but notice how most writers, even professionals, use TOO MANY WORDS. After over twelve years of writing professionally, I see in my old writing and that of just about everyone else, a tendency to be over-wordy. Let’s call that verbose or “expresses thoughts with more words than are needed.”

verboseYes I can just hear a few editors who critiqued my freelance pieces ten years ago saying, “Too many words!” Of course, back then I was getting paid by the word. Why not throw in a few extras? I’ve always been more a fan of the “get to your point and then stop” type of writing. Some have even critiqued my chapters or books by saying they’re so short. Well, I said what I came to say and then I shut up. I could never be the fiction writer who runs on for hundreds of pages.

“I am a minimalist. I like saying the most with the least.” ~Bob Newhart

So, here’s what I recommend. After you write a piece for public consumption, re-read it and see how many words you can remove and still get your exact same point across. Writing for others is not the same as keeping a journal. What do you want your audience to take away from reading your piece? The fewer the words, the more likely they will read the whole thing, get to your point, and then absorb it.

write until it becomes naturalBut, most important of all, please keep writing! It frees the soul, it lifts the spirits, it gives you a secret friend to talk to anytime you need to. Reading and writing have always been two of my best friends. I honestly have no idea where I would be without them. I have learned literally volumes of information and experienced so many new parts of the world and great adventures by reading about them. I have learned who I am by writing a journal for many decades. And finally, I hate to brag, but I’m very good at Jeopardy! I love it when none of the contestants know the answer but I do…

We read (and write!) to know we are not alone.