The words AI and selling out are bouncing all over the Internet right now. Writers (and artists) are freaking out. Should they be?
As I do when I find a book that really resonates with me, I am re-reading Oliver Burkeman’s 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, this time with highlighters in hand and sticky notes at the ready. The book resonates with me because it confirms the reality that I have been edging towards since moving to Portugal: That you can’t do all the things no matter how many time management systems and hacks you deploy. I had been wondering if my new-found acceptance of not being able to do everything all at once (in fact, I have pretty much been forced to find victory in accomplishing one thing a day) was a kind of surrender, a settling, an admission that I was no longer that person who was going to conquer the world. (Spoiler Alert: I never was.)
In the book, Burkeman says settling is inevitable. In fact, he says you should settle, whether it’s settling for a job that pays the bills but doesn’t inspire you or a life partner who doesn’t quite measure up to your ideal. (What he doesn’t say, but I will, is that you don’t quite measure up to their ideal either, Bub.) He further goes on to say that you don’t actually have a choice: You will settle, whether you choose to be with someone or you choose to refuse to settle, which is a settling in itself. Choosing not to settle for someone means you’re settling for the search for someone, which is using up your allotted finite time for a less-than-ideal situation. Either way, less-than-ideal partner or less-than-ideal situation, you settle.
Every decision you make is a variation of settling. Keeping your options open on one thing means closing them on another. If we don’t have any other choice but to settle for just about everything in life, maybe it’s time to stop demonizing the concept of settling and accept it for what it is: reality.
AI and Selling Out
There is a big (I mean BIG) brouhaha (that’s so much bigger than a kerfuffle) going on in the writing world (and probably the art world) over artificial intelligence and its increasing role in “the arts” instead of just being a good little data gatherer and sticking to science-y stuff.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Tara Jacobsen of Marketing Artfully took me through what you could do using AI for images. With each image, she could give a better prompt to more clearly define what she wanted. She could use different filters for various art styles from steampunk to impressionism. She pointed out where the AI was weak and little things that would need to be tweaked but came up with some pretty cool renderings.
Tara is very smart and VERY BOSSY (Being bossy is one of her three favorite things). She said to me, “You may not like the idea of this, but before you turn up your nose at it, you need to understand what it does and what it can do. Get familiar with it because you will need it in the future.” Or something like that. Basically, I’d be left in the dust. So, time to face reality.
So, I played with it. My first results were mediocre. Then a fellow writer, Maurice Evans, showed me how to do some cool stuff with ChatGPT. All of a sudden, the potential of what this tool could do dawned on me. It was more than light dawning on Marblehead. It was like the Sun God Ra spoke to me. (And if you’d like the Sun God Ra to shine on you, Maurice and I are doing a webinar next Friday, March 3rd, showing how writers—and business owners for that matter—can use ChatGPT to save time and add more options to their offerings. REGISTER HERE.)
Now, the big deal is that writers (and graphic artists) are feeling like beta max repairmen watching CDs come in. (Yeah, I could’ve used the buggy whip analogy; it was a choice.)
OMG! We’re being replaced! We’re obsolete! The sky is falling!
Yep. To some extent, AI is going to take up the work of writers and in many cases, do a better job. You know what else does a better job? Sewing machines. I can hand sew a seam but it looks like crap, the stitching isn’t uniform, it takes a long time and who knows if it will hold. The sewing machine can do the same job in under 30 seconds that it would take me 30 minutes to do. Are there people who pay for bespoke, handsewn clothing? Yes. And there are craftsmen who do fine needlework and can command high prices for that work.
The same with AI and writing or graphics.
But the vast majority of people buy off the rack. And the vast majority of people, sadly, can’t tell, at least on a conscious level, good writing from mediocre.
Excellent writing sings. It has a rhythm. It’s easy to understand and at its best, makes you think or clarifies something for you. You enjoy excellent writing. On a daily basis, you accept mediocre or average writing. You’re not looking for excellence; you’re looking for an answer.
I enjoy writing. When I am writing for myself, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, I will most likely not use AI. I like trying to find the right words (harder to do as I age) and making something a little bit more clever than it was originally. It’s fun for me to do. It’s fun for me to read.
I also make my living by writing (and editing and publishing and coaching). If I use AI to create a solid first draft or generate ideas or find examples for me to use in a project, am I selling out? Too late. I am the proud author (non-AI assisted) of an eBook on how to get bigger butts and thighs. (Spoiler Alert: Take up fencing—it’s mostly lunging with a bit of sword swishing and it gives you a great ass. You’re welcome.) I have been paid to write on real estate investing, disability insurance, roofing, private lending, the best places for physicians to live and work, and all sorts of weird, specialized things.
So, I’ve already sold out. It’s called making a living.
Which brings us to…
AI and Survival
I like to eat. On the regular. I like sleeping inside a climate-controlled building in a soft comfy bed. I bet you do, too. We have to move with the times. Survival requires that you learn to adapt.
AI is the wave of the future. It’s a tool we can use to do our work faster and more easily. Maybe one day in the not distant future it will become our overlord. Nothing you or I can do about that.
We’re about to see a tsunami of AI-produced crap hitting websites, Amazon and other publishing platforms, and the media. Knowledgeable, competent writers and artists are still necessary to take the crap and refine it, make it into something worth reading or viewing. There is still a place for good writers and artists. AI is replacing the mediocre among us.
And, right now, we’re still the ones generating ideas. Do you need an email series to send to new customers? AI can do that for you but you need to tell it what you want it to talk about, what tone you want (formal, informal, sassy?). You can give it a theme to follow: Write a six-part email sequence welcoming new subscribers to a site for Ajax Office Janitorial Services using the theme of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (You know I’m gonna pop that into the Chat later just to see what happens.) We’re still the ones guiding the program to give us what we want or something close enough to what we want that we can polish.
I am an early avoider. I know of new technologies and for the most part adopt a “wait and see” policy. Not with AI. This is something I can use now, that will make my life easier, is fun(!), and will help my business not only survive, but thrive. If you’re even a little bit curious about AI and what it can do, join us for the webinar next Friday, March 3rd.