What ChatGPT Steals From Writers
Featuring the surprising range of benefits from writing
Since I misplaced the hacksaw three years ago, and since the branches from the storm were too big to fit in our fire pit, I had to break them apart with rocks.
What other options?
Needless to say, this process for gathering firewood was a bit more complex than normal. I had to:
Pick up a stick.
Walk it across the yard
Place it at the proper angle against the brick wall
Squat to pick up a big rock
Climb on top of the brick wall
Lift the big rock high in the air
Drop it onto the stick
Collect the pieces
As opposed to:
Buy firewood from Kroger.
This was a longer path to be sure. Afterward, though, I didn’t just have a fire. I had a workout. A dim sense of pride bubbled in my mind.
Writers are now facing a similar dilemma in their own work.
Consider an idea from every angle
Crawl through Google for research
Climb through Twitter for community insight
Find similar articles
Write a bad first draft
Edit the first draft for clarity
Edit the second draft for memorability
Edit each sentence for grammar
Or do they:
Tell ChatGPT to “go write a thing.”
Over the last century or so, we have pursued progress by isolating one discipline, removing variables, and tweaking inputs until that particular discipline is perfect. Or close.
In the medical field, we go to the “ear, nose, and throat doctor,” as opposed to the “respiratory system doctor.” We treat symptoms first. Later, we might look for a root cause.
In the kitchen, it’s no longer good enough to have an oven. You need a microwave, a toaster, a toaster oven, an instant pot, a crock pot, and an air fryer.
And in the workforce, you have rule-following specialists, eyes glued to their own disciplines, refusing to do anything but “their job.”
At least in America, holistic pursuits have fallen by the wayside.
Why walk to work when you could drive to spin class? Why chat at the water cooler when you aren’t supposed to be social until 5 P.M.?
We forget that there are benefits of doing a thing beyond just “having done the thing.”
Let me be more concrete.
There are far more reasons to collect, break, and stack wood than just “having firewood.”
And, there are far more benefits of writing than just “having written.”
Fewer doctor visits. A feeling of general well-being. Processing past trauma. Improved cognitive skills, memory, and problem-solving.
These are the clinical benefits. This ignores a principle human need to simply express yourself. Writing helps you sort out your beliefs, get them organized and communicate those beliefs to other people.
(You’ll notice I haven’t used the words “likes,” “retweets,” “shares,” “viral,” or “passive income” a single time.)
If I always bought firewood instead of collecting it from raw materials and processing it myself, I’d likely be ok.
But if I outsourced all the hard work of writing, my creativity, my intellect, and my prospects all suffer.
I can’t help but worry nobody is enjoying the race.
Instead, we’re all trying to skip to the finish line.
Much love as always <3
-Todd B from Tennessee