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How ChatGPT Can Rescue You From Writer's Block



FOUNDER, WORKTALK COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTING


As journalist Gene Fowler once wrote, "Writing is easy. You just stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." For many business writers, the encounter with the blank screen is as terrifying as an annual review. Brains freeze. Hearts race. Stomachs churn. The thought "What am I supposed to write?" or "How should I start?" ricochets between our ears until our precious writing time has passed without our setting a word to paper.


You might be required to write blog posts, product descriptions, reports, or other kinds of content. When faced with the specter of brain freeze, artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT can help you brainstorm ideas, rapidly generate drafts and outlines, and proofread. However, it cannot achieve any of those results without concerted input from you.


Here are three ways that ChatGPT can help you overcome writer's block:


1. Brainstorm ideas for content.

When writer's block has your stomach in a knot, A.l. programs such as ChatGPT can get you over the initial hurdle. If you're feeling thought-parched, ask it to generate 10 ideas on your topic and it will oblige. However, the algorithm has a crucial constraint: It's a machine. In the end, you must take responsibility for your words.


The A.I.'s output is only as good as the prompts you give it, so be as specific as possible when entering your search terms. Remember the GIGO adage: garbage in, garbage out. So, compose your prompt carefully.


2. Create a rough first draft of the content.

If you are stuck and unable to generate a first draft, generative A.I. can help you. Enter your title, a few major points you want to include, and prompt it specifically. For example, you might say, "Draft a professional email from a marketing consultant to a corporate client that includes the following points." It will create a draft to work from. But, please, do not simply send your client whatever the A.I. suggested. A.I. is not a substitute for human creativity and fact-checking.


I avoid using ChatGPT to generate drafts. When I teach editing skills, I often point out that once we see words typed on a screen or page, they may start to look right even if they are wrong. That's why I prefer to put my own stamp on a document before asking technology to weigh in.

In addition, A.I. algorithms sometimes produce text that sounds plausible but is false or illogical. You must fact-check everything these algorithms draft for you, or you could rue the day you relied on them.


3. Proofread and edit.

Proofreading our own work is notoriously difficult, largely because our eyes are lying to us from the get-go. We see words that are not on the page, don't notice missing words, and magically correct spelling errors in our heads, leaving them to stare accusingly at us from the page after it's too late to fix them. ChatGPT can help with that. Tell it to proofread your piece and it will oblige.


For free.


Now, all these suggestions might sound suspiciously like having ChatGPT actually write an article for you, but this is not so. Outsourcing the creative process to a machine is never a good idea, because as much as ChatGPT knows about what others have written before you, it does not know what you intend to write.


A.I. is derivative, even though the G in ChatGPT stands for generative. It generates using what has appeared on the internet in the past, not what's on your mind today. It is extraordinarily adept at recombining facts into new forms, but it is not actually thinking (at least, not yet).


So feel free to use generative A.I. for what it's good for -- brainstorming, rough drafting, and proofreading -- but keep your hand on the tiller at all times. This technology can rescue you from writer's block, but it will not save your neck if you give it insufficient or inadequate prompts and check all the facts it provides. In a way, that's good news: If your input is still necessary, the robots have not yet taken over the world.

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