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AI vs. DIY: The Case for Humans to Create

How to benefit from doing your own work.

Key points

  • Artificial intelligence will never provide the same emotional high of creativity.
  • Focus on the process, not the product, and enjoy creating.
  • Regardless of the current hype in the media today, AI will never replace the writer.

Last Friday, I received an email from my boss.

The subject line: Implications of chatbots and artificial intelligence for writing teachers.

Why is this concerning?

I am a writing teacher. I teach college freshmen how to write. I am proud of what I do, and I believe with all my heart and soul that my work matters.

But if a robot, or an algorithm, can write a paper for a student that is undetectable for plagiarism, will I become obsolete?

A colleague responded to the email stating that he had downloaded a beta version of a ChatGPT, one of these new OpenAIs, and that he had successfully "written" an A-quality paper in 10 minutes. The document included in-text citations and a works cited, and it made sense.

A writing teacher often faces the battle of helping our students recover from the dread of red. High school teachers, tasked with the gargantuan job of providing an overview of the world’s best literature, the basics of grammar, spelling, punctuations, and the mechanics of writing, and preparing students for standardized testing, have little time to teach strategies to write quality essays.

My students often come to my classes with a certain reticence about writing. They begin the semester with a feeling of uneasiness. They doubt their own abilities. They question their purpose as writers. They would rather do anything but write a five-page essay or a 12-page research paper.

One of my roles in teaching college freshmen how to write is to bolster their self-efficacy.

Artificial Intelligence can produce stunning art and accurate portraits that reflect a wide variety of styles, themes, and genres.

AI cannot help a writer feel more confident

AI can generate music with melodies that soothe, motivate us to get up and dance, and help our attention with rhythms that lull us into hyper-focus.

And now, AI can write persuasive essays that include reputable sources recognized with in-text citations and accurate reference pages.

But artificial intelligence cannot provide the writer with the satisfaction of writing an excellent essay.

When I write, I often get into the zone, or as Csikszentmihalyi called this experience, "flow." It's that mentally focused state where time seems to melt away.

AI will never provide me with that euphoric psychological state.

Readers of publications like Psychology Today value creativity. They value novelty. They value the unique and the useful.

How proud can we be of our creativity when readers discover that our brains had little to do with the product—the short story, novel, or poem? Instead, we learned to plug in a few details and then hit "submit."

Do we want that non-feeling collective brain to get all the credit?

I write because I like the process of writing. Sometimes I love the process too much. And I am not alone in enjoying the very act of writing. Last night, my writing partner, Jack, sent me a text saying, “I really have been enjoying this story.” He was referring to a short story that he is writing.

Being an author mimics being a god because we create characters, concoct plots, and construct creative settings where the action plays out.

It’s pretty cool.

I'd rather write than publish because that next step involves vulnerability when an anonymous audience reads my text.

Maybe that should be the job of AI: to read and review original text.

We could program the algorithm to be kind and focus on the success of the essay.

I say this because sometimes critics focus too much on condemning the author's intentions when what is needed is more comments praising the work in a supportive way.

We often liken writing to torture and self-flagellation

Indeed, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith said of writing, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

Robots don’t have blood. Chatbots cannot bleed. They don’t get a high when their characters fall in love. They don’t cry when our hero suffers a loss. They don’t startle when the villain jumps out of the dark alley.

Do you enjoy being a poser?

It's one thing to fake it until you make it, but you'll never be an outstanding writer if you don't write. Period. If you continue to pretend, you are childish without the precious naivete of a child.

When I was a kid, I loved playing "make-believe." The stories I write today often dip into that realm.

We make up stories. We fictionalize on the daily. We pretend that the made-up world that unfolds on the page exists in outer space or in ancient Greece or right next door where the neighbor becomes a prowling lion every night. I enjoy following my own set of innate parameters to write stories.

If you're like me, maybe you like to write, too, for the pure joy of writing.

Writers live to birth song lyrics, the poem, the play, and the book

Try this:

Investigate one of those AIs that produces work in your genre. Plug in the details and see what it produces. View or read the results.

Take note of your perception of the product.

Are you happy with the results?

Are you proud of the results?

When you struggle with doing your art, remember that the doing matters. It really does.

Have you ever heard of Rosie Ruiz?

In 1980, she snuck into the sea of runners near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Officials mistakenly declared her the female winner until further scrutiny proved she had only run part of the race.

There is no joy in this type of charade.

No pleasure is derived from fake-writing a story, essay, or even copywriting promotional materials for a business client.

I write because I love to write.

How about you?

Do the work yourself. You’ll be glad that you did.

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