There’s been a big kerfuffle in the writing community (well many of them) over Generative AI. I’ve mentioned Generative AI in the past, but I’ll explain it briefly if you’re not in the thick of it like writers and other creatives are: Generative AI in writing means using a Large Language Model (think ChatGPT) to generate prose for you based on prompts you provide.

Some days I’m excited about AI; other days, I can’t be bothered; other days, I wish it was 1985 again before smart phones and chatbots and deepfakes. Currently, I’m in an “I can’t be bothered. I’ll stick to my roots” phase.

And what are my roots? Scribbling in notebooks in my bedroom until the wee hours of the night dreaming up new ideas and reveling in the feel-good emotions that deep, meditative creative work evokes.

AI generated words can be addictive, flashy, exciting. (A machine wrote that? Seriously??) But when you pick the prose down to its bare bones, it often has a lifeless quality. And why wouldn’t it? The machine (the LLM) generates strings of words based on probabilities, not from conscious thought.

Sometimes, the machine is very, very good at what it does. (I will never write a synopsis again. ChatGPT can summarize a story in thirty seconds. No one wants to spend their time writing a synopsis…trust me.) But when I read the prose it writes, I usually walk away feeling meh.

The machine didn’t grow up under the threat of nuclear war. It’s had no scrapes or bruises. No fevers or late-night upset stomachs. It hasn’t played in a sandbox. It’s never felt the protection of a parent. It didn’t have an awkward phase where it had to figure out the social hierarchy or risk being bullied. It never got picked last for kickball.

It didn’t struggle through college burn-out, or experience the soul-sucking drudgery of a minimum wage job after graduation—after you worked so hard for that “summa cum laude” on your diploma that nobody in the real world gives a care about. It hasn’t felt happy, depressed. It hasn’t fallen in love. It hasn’t lost a grandparent or a friend. And it shows.

Some writers are envisioning a time when authors no longer write, they edit. Well, they write prompts and then they edit the output. I don’t have a problem with this creative model. It’s just one of many that will certainly grow out of this new reality where chatbots can be cowriters if we let them.

The question is, what do I want?

At the end of my life, do I want to look back at a catalogue of books that AI wrote and I edited? Is that what I dreamed about when I was a tween and teen, scribbling poetry in my journal into the wee hours?

Honestly? No. Not as it currently stands. While LLMs are making huge strides, their generated prose, in my opinion, isn’t up to snuff. They can’t maintain a unique, consistent author voice. They don’t understand the nuances of human behavior, something authors need to understand to bring characters to life.

There is so much more to telling a story than stringing words together. In a story, sentences play off each other. They slowly weave together themes. They incorporate rhythm and musicality. They culminate in a climax and paint a whole, satisfying portrait. There may be a time when LLMs can do all these things, but the time is not now. And if it ever comes, do I want to cede my God-given talents to a machine?

My answer may surprise you: Maybe. Sometimes. Just for fun. But if cowriting with an AI is not fun (which, as it stands, editing AI-generated prose is not my idea of fun), I don’t want to do it. If AI doesn’t make me a better writer, I don’t want it. If AI doesn’t make my life easier, I don’t want it. If AI doesn’t bring me more joy or make me a better me, I don’t want it.

So, for now, I’m taking a cautiously curious approach. I’m AI-curious, you might say—open to trying new things, but not committing to anything. If anything changes, I’ll be the first to let you know.

Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay