If I should die tonight and anyone should ask in passing, “Was Murray coming around on ChatGPT toward the end?” you may show them this. (H/t to fellow defender of the soul of the world, Tim Pollard.)
OK, just a few more words: Was asked about ChatGPT on a podcast the other day and heard myself telling the podcaster that I think I’m cheating when I turn to a thesaurus. Why? When I publish some writing, I want those words to be organic outgrowths of my life’s knowledge: What I have seen, who I have known and what I have read and all I have retained.
To go off and snag another word for “surprise” that starts with a “t” so I can complete some alliterative litany—it strikes me as a cheap trick. Glitter, tinsel, Gorilla Glue, duct tape, Bondo Wood Filler. I do it occasionally, and reassure myself that the rest of my prose has such intellectual and spiritual integrity that it can withstand a little electronic post-production patch-up.
I realize that attitude might come off as both prissy and vain, but I share it with you to illustrate my basic orientation here, and to help you see how unthinkable is the notion that I would go to ChatGPT for a whole sentence, paragraph or metaphor that did not burble up from my own experience. The piece would immediately cease to feel mine, and the reason I love to write is that my writing is the only thing I can call mine.
When I get to talking this way, the inevitable response is: Easy, Flaubert. Not all writing is worthy of such standards of personal expression.
To which I can only respond that I write a lot of pretty routine shit—marketing and website copy for company, for instance—that I could not bring myself to bother typing if I truly believed anyone else (or anything else) could write it quite the way I do.
I know there are many sane people who don’t feel this way. My sister-in-law is in tech, and though she writes very well on her own, she loves the head start she can get with a good ChatGPT prompt. I also know there are communicators who use AI with less compunction than I use a thesaurus; they’re paid for quantity more than quality. And I even know some creative types who think of AI as a great “thought partner.”
But to paraphrase Nick Cave, you should probably “fucking desist” if you want to continue calling yourself a “writer.”