To say that ChatGPT has changed the writing game would be an understatement, but is this change really all that bad? Are there ways that using ChatGPT can actually help us write better? (I know, blasphemy! Us writers are all supposed to hate ChatGPT right? While I believe humans are the best storytellers and writers, I do remain curious as to how tools can help humans with their creative pursuits, not replace them as content creators.)
To test the platform, I asked ChatGPT “What are the pros of using ChatGPT as a writer?” and this is what it produced:
- Versatility: ChatGPT can generate content on a wide range of topics, making it a versatile tool for various writing tasks.
- Creativity: ChatGPT can generate creative and novel ideas, providing fresh perspectives and inspiration for writers.
- Productivity boost: With ChatGPT’s assistance, writers can potentially produce content faster and overcome writer’s block by generating initial drafts or outlining ideas.
- Grammar and language assistance: ChatGPT can help improve grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, making the writing more polished and professional.
- Learning resource: Interacting with ChatGPT can be a learning experience, as it can provide insights, facts, and explanations on various subjects.
Not too shabby! This l’il AI sure knows how to sell itself!
Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring the world of ChatGPT more, especially how it aligns with those in the writing and editing world. I do not take its word 100% here (of course it’s going to tell us it’s awesome and life-changing, right?), and I will be exploring the (many) limitations and benefits in future posts.
Today, I want to focus on the big-picture and add my own non-AI-generated commentary to what Chat GPT can offer memoir and non-fiction writers. Let’s remember that technology can be helpful, if we use it in the right way!
Versatility: ChatGPT can generate content on a wide range of topics, making it a versatile tool for various writing tasks.
This is absolutely true! I may have spent way too much time asking the program silly questions and giving ridiculous prompts (including creating a Shakespearean rap that was impressively entertaining and surprisingly clever).
The catch? These prompts only spit out information that has been added to the dataset from web scraping, essentially what it is able to find online. There are many questions not just about the ethics around this practice but also the accuracy. We know that much that exists online can be biased at best and harmfully inaccurate at worst. Additionally, currently, ChatGPT only “knows” info pre 2021 (try asking it who the current reigning monarch is in the UK….yup, still Queen Elizabeth, according to our fav l’il robot).
But what about memoir? Unless your life story already exists online, ChatGPT cannot write your memoir or share your personal experience and the emotions that come with it. Don’t believe me? I asked ChatGPT about generating a memoir and this was the response:
As an AI language model, I can certainly generate text that resembles a memoir. However, since I don’t possess personal experiences or emotions, the content may lack the authentic and subjective elements typically found in a memoir written by a human. Nevertheless, I can assist in creating a fictionalized account or help structure and organize the content for a memoir based on the provided information. Ultimately, the depth and authenticity of a memoir come from the personal reflections and lived experiences of the author.
There you have it. ChatGPT can help generate ideas around specific topics but will not be able to write your personal memoir. It even admits here that humans are the only authentic holders of their own experiences. (Thanks, ChatGPT for owning your limits!)
Creativity: ChatGPT can generate creative and novel ideas, providing fresh perspectives and inspiration for writers.
The idea of using writing prompts isn’t new. Many writers use journals that include prompts to help start the flow. We are often inspired by instances in our daily activities or even by the space in which we chose to write.
I asked ChatGPT about generating creative ideas and it responded:
ChatGPT generates creative and novel ideas by leveraging its extensive training on a vast corpus of text from the internet. During training, the model learns to recognize patterns, identify relationships between words and concepts, and generate coherent and contextually relevant responses.
When prompted with a specific topic or question, ChatGPT taps into its knowledge base to generate text that combines existing information in novel and imaginative ways. It can make connections between disparate concepts, draw from various sources of information, and offer perspectives that may not have been immediately apparent.
Additionally, ChatGPT’s ability to generate text is not limited to replicating existing content. It can explore different possibilities and scenarios by extrapolating from existing information. This allows it to offer fresh perspectives and ideas that may inspire writers to think beyond their initial concepts or explore new avenues of creativity.
It appears that creativity isn’t outside the realm of ChatGPT but here is the catch…
While ChatGPT can certainly offer inspiration and creative suggestions, it’s important to note that it is ultimately a tool that relies on the input and guidance of the user. Human judgment and creativity remain essential in evaluating and refining the ideas generated by the model to ensure they align with the writer’s vision and intent.
Even AI recognizes the role of our beautiful brains in the creative process. It says we are “essential.” Enough said.
Productivity boost: With ChatGPT’s assistance, writers can potentially produce content faster and overcome writer’s block by generating initial drafts or outlining ideas.
This is true, but it’s a very slippery slope, and I caution writers here.
I asked ChatGPT to generate a blog on the topic of the pros and cons of using it to generate content. The outcome was impressive and not as robotic as I would have expected. I probably could have simply copied and pasted that blog right here and called it a day, as opposed to spending hours researching this topic and writing this post.
I sure would have saved myself some time and freed up space in my calendar for more fun things…but doing so would have been contrary to my values as an individual and as a writer. I don’t write blogs to simply boost my SEO or push content in front of people—my goal is to provide quality and relevant information that can help you find the inspiration and courage you need to write your story. A ChatGPT blog lacked my voice, my personality, my thoughts. (As it will lack yours…)
While I have thoroughly enjoyed using the technology for the purpose of this blog, it has become clear that it is not a replacement for the thoughts and feelings of an individual. Things that are crucial for an engaging memoir. Human experiences are full of raw, human emotion—how can anything AI even remotely begin to understand the complexities of our feelings? Heck, most of us have a hard time sorting them all out!
Grammar and language assistance: ChatGPT can help improve grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, making the writing more polished and professional.
Much like online translation services offer mostly accurate translations, ChatGPT can help somewhat with grammar and language assistance, but there are still issues with context and regionality that are often missed by these programs. I asked ChatGPT about this, and this is what it had to say:
As an AI language model, my responses are generated based on a wide range of data, including general linguistic patterns. While I can try to mimic accents or regionalities to a certain extent, it’s important to approach such usage with sensitivity and respect for the cultural and linguistic diversity of different regions.
Being from Newfoundland, a place with very distinguishable regionalisms, sayings, and accents, I can be sure that an AI program wouldn’t accurately represent that culture. (Random fact: The Newfoundland accent is so varied that many Hollywood actors have failed in their quest to mimic it…). And that’s to say nothing about specific cultural sensitivities (aka, racism) that need to be understood and treated with utmost respect.
You can absolutely use ChatGPT to check spelling and grammar (and you’ll get a better product if you can prompt it with a specific Reference Guide, like Chicago, for example)…but I wouldn’t trust the program to be perfect. You’ll want to check the edits with your own eyes (or hire someone to do it for you).
Worth noting: ChatGPT does way better for non-fiction and reference material than it does checking fiction. Why? Fiction takes liberties. It’s ok to veer from the Standard Rule of Grammar. And this confuses our l’il grammar-checking robot because AI works on rules, not exceptions.
Learning resource: Interacting with ChatGPT can be a learning experience, as it can provide insights, facts, and explanations on various subjects.
I asked ChatGPT how accurate the facts generated in its responses were, and this was what I got:
The accuracy of the facts generated by ChatGPT can vary. As an AI language model, ChatGPT does not have real-time access to information and relies on the data it was trained on, which has a knowledge cutoff in September 2021. While the model has been trained on a vast amount of information from the internet, it is still possible for it to generate inaccurate or outdated information, especially when it comes to rapidly changing or specific domains.
It’s important to note that ChatGPT does not possess inherent understanding or awareness like humans do, and it does not have the ability to independently verify the accuracy of the information it generates. Consequently, it is always recommended to fact-check and verify any information provided by ChatGPT with reliable and up-to-date sources before considering it as completely accurate.
OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT, encourages users to critically evaluate and validate the information provided by the model. Responsible usage involves cross-referencing information, using reputable sources, and exercising human judgment to ensure accuracy and reliability.
I alluded to this above. September 2021? So much has happened since then! That said, historical information prior to its cut-off date is likely to be relatively accurate and this could be a great tool to start researching background information or historical contexts in your writing.
ChatGPT is a Tool
Like any tool in a toolbox, it will only ever be as good as its user. ChatGPT has some powerful and useful functions and can absolutely be used to enhance your writing as well as generate some pretty inspirational prompts. I’ll explore more of this in future blog posts.
When it comes to memoir and other types of non-fiction writing, you will find that ChatGPT is much more limited. AI will never be able to tell your story—only you have that power. Your experience, your perspective, and your words are yours alone and the decision to put that story on paper is a personal one. No computer can replicate your experience, let alone put it into words.
In future blog posts, I’ll explore how you can use ChatGPT to enhance your writing. Because it is possible!
Just like ChatGPT is a tool, I, too, consider myself an aid for you (I’m going to stay away from calling myself a “tool” for obvious reasons). While you need to be the one to write your story, I can certainly help you along the way. If you’d like some help from a real human, I encourage you to reach out and we can start the conversation about what this process looks like and the support that I can offer you.