“Who am I if I’m not a writer?”
This is the question I’ve been asking myself since ChatGPT turned the world of writing upside down and caused the craft I’d spent over a decade trying to master to lose much of its value.
It threw me into an identity crisis, and that really hurts. And I think there are writers like me who are silently mourning the death of their old selves as writers. The struggle is real.
But why is this so painful? Isn’t AI just another tech solution that can make our lives easier?
To answer this question, I borrow the words of American author Mark Manson in his insightful article, “How to Let Go: Learning to Deal With Loss“:
To feel good about ourselves, we need to feel that our time and energy is spent meaningfully. Meaning is the fuel of our minds. When you run out of it, everything else stops working. The primary way we generate meaning is through relationships.
We don’t just have relationships with other people…, we also have relationships with our career, with our community, with groups and ideas that we identify with, activities we engage in, and so on.
Our relationships don’t just give our lives meaning, they also define our understanding of ourselves. I am a writer because of my relationship with writing. I am a son because of my relationship with my parents. I am an American because of my relationship with my country.
When we lose a relationship, that meaning is stripped away from us. Suddenly this thing that created so much meaning in our life no longer exists. As a result, we will feel a sense of emptiness where that meaning used to be.
A sense of emptiness and lack of meaning is exactly what has been creeping up on me and eating me up over the past few months. But thanks to Mark, I know what is a healthy and what is an unhealthy reaction to loss:
The healthy response to loss is to slowly but surely construct new relationships and bring new meaning into one’s life.
The unhealthy response to loss is to refuse to admit that part of you is dead and gone. It’s to cling to the past and desperately try to recover it or relive it in some way. People do this because their entire identity and self-respect was wrapped up in that missing relationship. They feel that they are incapable or unworthy of loving and meaningful relationships with someone or something else going forward.
But how can writers like me build a new relationship with their careers and find meaning and thus joy in writing with AI around?
First of all, I should admit that it’s not easy, especially if you’ve identified yourself as a writer more than anything else in your life. And from experience, I can say that it’s unrealistic not to expect writers to have a love-hate relationship with AI writers like ChatGPT. So let’s make peace with that.
However, there are still ways to make writing “meaningful” to ourselves again. And the secret is to become expert in areas where AI still has its limitations and can make us feel like our skills are being “augmented” rather than “replaced” by a chatbot. These include:
- Storytelling with a very personal touch
- Thought leadership articles that mainly contain unconventional views and trend predictions
- Interviews based on personalized questions
- In-depth, technical, and long-form research and analysis content
- Personal reviews of products, books, movies, etc.
- Content that requires fact-checking
- Investigative journalism
Why should writers consider focusing on video content?
As people who have a way with the written word, many writers find the written medium most expressive and fulfilling. I believe this has something to do with their personality and why they fell in love with writing in the first place.
However, you might want to try your hand at creating video content. I know how sacred the written world can be to us, but we can use our writing skills, our unique voices and personalities, and the help of all sorts of tech solutions to create great video content. This is one area where AI still lags behind humans in terms of personal touch, so use that as a differentiating factor.
The point of adaptation and evolution is to get out of our comfort zone and recognize and preserve the essence of what makes us who we are, and rethink and change the rest based on the demands of the times.
Writing makes us feel good because we “create”. So pursue “creation” and open your heart and mind to the idea of presenting your creation in a new medium, either by yourself or through your own platform or that of others.
What if I’m an employee?
Freelancers and writers who own their own businesses may find it easier to make changes to their services and content and find new clients so they feel they’re adding value with their work while enriching their own careers.
But employed writers may not have enough freedom to change the nature of their work if they no longer find it meaningful enough. Here are my suggestions:
1- Talk to your employer
Talk honestly with your employer about how you feel and what you’re going through. If necessary, ask them to give you time to figure out what kind of content makes you feel fulfilled and rewarded.
Ask for more challenging assignments and show that you’re ready to take on new challenges in a new role within the company. Acquire the skills necessary to evolve from a writer to an AI content specialist, content consultant, idea designer, video content expert, data analyst, etc.
Invest not only in your personal growth to have a healthy response to the loss of your old self as a writer, but also in your technical skills by subscribing to and learning to work with the tech solutions that will help you get your work done faster, more productively, more easily, and more efficiently.
You can even show the added value of such tools for the whole team and persuade your employer to buy the premium plans available for businesses. But to do that, you need to do your homework first.
The beauty of this journey of personal and professional development is that it boosts your confidence in the value of your work, for which you can ask for a raise, while helping your employer gain a competitive edge by using the latest tools and staying on top of the latest industry trends.
2- Help educate clients
If the type of content your employer requests you to create depends on the type of content the company’s clients demand, you can offer to advise those customers directly or indirectly about what changes they need to make to their content plans and what kind of content benefits them the most with the fast development of AI tools.
Note: The type of content they benefit most from relates to the areas where AI currently has its limitations, such as thought leadership articles, video content with a personal touch, long research papers, etc.
Also, be transparent with clients and introduce them–again directly or indirectly, depending on your role in the company–to the tools they can use to easily create, rewrite, or edit certain content without outsourcing it. That way, you can work with them on more meaningful projects.
Well-informed customers appreciate this transparency and will reward you by starting to see you and your employer as their strategic content advisor. It’ll be a win-win situation.
It’s a never-ending journey.
More than anyone, I need to remind myself that life is a journey of growth. So many times I’ve felt like I had it all figured out, but then I realized I only had it figured out for a while.
And that’s what our lives are all about. We’re here to explore different layers and enjoy different shades of ourselves.
I know I’ll have to come up with a new plan again to stay relevant and find meaning in my work after ChatGPT-4 is introduced, for example.
But the good news is that as long as I know what’s going on with me when I hit an identity crisis, I’m well positioned to bounce back faster and breathe new life into my world as someone who has a love affair with words.
Author bio: Elham P.Mohammadi is a journalist and the founder of ElhamX Media.