I’ll start with a confession: Until recently, I wanted nothing to do with the new AI tools. I know AI probably powers many apps and services I use, but I refused to use tools like ChatGPT directly as part of my writing process. And I had some pretty good arguments for that.
I wrote before and will say it again: Outsourcing writing to a machine is a mistake. It doesn’t matter how good these tools are or will become; they might be doing a better job than some of us even today, at least in some areas. But when you delegate writing, you delegate your ability to think. Your content is no longer your content; your voice is not really yours. Writing is thinking; when we rely on others (people or machines) to do it for us, we lose what makes us worth listening to.
But something has changed. A couple of weeks ago, I changed course. Instead of having nothing to do with AI, I decided to explore its potential. I don’t know if I’ve changed my mind, but I’ve certainly flexed it. And I didn’t do it by myself.
You see, while I refused to embed AI in my workflow, it intrigued me. I experimented with it a bit before this recent change. More importantly, I read numerous posts and articles and listened to quite a few podcasts and interviews about how AI can affect professionals’ workflow in various domains. I didn’t like most of it. If anything, many of the ideas I’ve heard made my opinion stronger. But now and then, I’ve stumbled upon something that made me stop and think. Maybe not enough to change my mind, but certainly enough to take a mental note of it. Until it reached a tipping point that made me take the plunge.
Did all my previous arguments evaporate? Not at all, but I did experiment and found a use for AI that seemed to enhance my writing workflow. Instead of using it to do my writing for me or to help me ideate, I use ChatGPT to summarize the text I write (after the draft is complete) and verify it communicates what I want it to. As far as I can tell, this is not a use I’ve heard about, but this wouldn’t have happened without being engaged in a dialogue with others (most of whom I’ve never met). In parallel to writing why I shouldn’t use AI, I listened. As I expressed my views on the importance of keeping the thinking process for us humans, I was receptive to other perspectives. I didn’t automatically accept them, but I thought about them and let them affect me. After I published the post describing the use I found for ChatGPT, I got some comments that opened my mind to other uses — all within my self-inflicted guideline: to avoid the temptation of letting the machine write for me.
So, this is not another article about AI; it’s a text about the importance of being in a constant dialogue. People who write and publish content primarily work alone. Stephen King said, “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.” I would add that having someone to challenge and affect you is no less critical.
The issue with having ideas, processing them, and writing about them is that it is easy to fall in love with them. As we refine and tweak the stories we tell and the insights we eventually share with the world, we are in danger of becoming less receptive to new ideas and other views. When we work inside the fortress of our mind, we lose the opportunity to grow and evolve.
It is hard to imagine writing as anything but a lonely task. As I write these words, I sit alone in my home office, staring at the monitor as it gradually fills with words that hopefully capture my thoughts. It seems to be all about me and my ideas, and having a dialogue at this moment appears unproductive. I already have a solid idea when I write — I know where I am heading. But this doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of opportunities to engage in a conversation with other people and new ideas.
Few of my dialogues are with friends and colleagues; most conversations are with people I don’t know personally, and some discussions are not even done with a simultaneous exchange of words.
It starts with my audience. When I lead a workshop, there’s obviously a dialogue. But even when I publish a post or an article, people respond. To kick off a conversation, I just need to listen and allow my audience’s views, comments, and insights to affect me. They won’t necessarily change how I think about something, but they will often challenge it. I might end up with the same idea but supported by a new argument or spiced with a new nuance.
At a farther circle, I read and listen to people who think and write about topics I care about. They don’t necessarily think like me, and that’s exactly what turns this into a conversation, even if the conversation is entirely in my head. When I read an article or a book or listen to a thought-provoking podcast, I let it sink in and try to reflect on it. Whether it supports my preexisting ideas, challenges them, or introduces a new concept I hadn’t thought about, these interactions feed my thought process. Occasionally, they will affect how I think about something, just as happened a couple of weeks ago with my relationship with AI.
I still do most of the processing of these inputs alone. My way of processing them is by writing about them. In that respect, writing is still a lonely task. But as I write, I carry these echoes of other ideas, different opinions, and numerous nuances. When they affect my thoughts, it is always for the better.
Nothing is ever created in a vacuum. All ideas are fusions of previous ideas, so collecting raw material is an essential creative habit. Being open to dialogue even after you have a well-formed thought takes the concept of fusing ideas further. It turns this fusion into a never-ending process that enables us to evolve and grow. The alternative is having a fixed set of ideas frozen in time. No matter how good they are, they will not hold for long, if only because reality is ever-changing.
Above all, engaging in a dialogue creates relationships with your audience, colleagues, and peers. When we manifest these relationships in the real world, they are priceless. But even if they remain merely voices in our minds, they create a sense of community. A constant dialogue enables co-creation, and there’s nothing better to aspire to than creating something new with others.