Over the past six months or so, I’ve been toying with various AI copywriting tools. I even paid a substantial monthly fee for a service, but due to my eventual great disgust with the platform, I won’t bother to mention them here. However, when ChatGPT emerged, I was impressed with its potential to help me better organize my content and help me brainstorm ideas. When Bing Chat came out somewhat later, I recognized its usefulness as a research tool that could also supplement my ChatGPT Plus subscription.
At first, I did a lot of experimentation with having ChatGPT actually write essays for me based on the style and tone of existing pieces. To be honest, I was impressed, at first. What I inevitably posted would be massively rewritten, much of the time entirely. Many times I found myself keeping only the vague structure and some of the best ideas. But no matter how much I prompted the AI, even with all of the great turns of phrase and ideas it could spit out on demand, it still just felt wrong to me to lean so heavily on these inexpensive tools, as impressive as their outputs can be.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t use AI to write their content. But I will say that I’m beginning to see why people want to try and segregate human content from AI content, and be transparent about hybrid content. I’ve backed away from leaning entirely on AI even for shorter pieces. I’ve chosen to only use ChatGPT and Bing Chat entirely for brainstorming, outlining, and research. When I do use its output directly, I’m now being perfectly straightforward about it.
In fact, I’m finding it much more useful to use ChatGPT and Bing Chat as collaborative tools. I’ve been writing queries in the form of letters, and getting back some incredibly useful and insightful responses. Just like any language model built on NLP (Natural Language Processing), the output is only as good as the input.
So, I’ve decided going forward that I will be showing my process of culling some old articles and rewriting them with the help of ChatGPT and Bing Chat. I’ll use the former for more generalized topics, whereas I’ll use the latter that requires the use of current sources or up-to-date information.
My example today is an old blog post of mine called “Dazzled by Star Power,” which I initially wrote back in late 2014 and revised in 2020 for The Phoenix Desertsong. But, it wasn’t well written, as it was just an extract from my journal at the time. It had good ideas, but it fell flat both times when I posted it. However, ChatGPT was only happy to take the original text and create a new essay outline for me.
I would use a prompt such as: “Please rewrite the below text as an essay outline…” or something to that effect. It could be that straightforward. Then, ChatGPT will spit out an outline with headings and subheadings. For “Dazzled By Star Power” it came up with the following key points:
- The Over-saturation of Celebrity News
- Celebrities as Ordinary People
- The Toll of Celebrity Status
- Reconsidering Celebrity Obsession
This was brilliant because it pulled the main points out of a rambling 500-word blog post and reorganized it in a useful way.
So, with this outline in mind, I decided to have it tackle each of the six sections as its own separate essay. I do this so that I get 400-600 words to work with on each section, so I can pull out what I like and discard the rest.
To get it to write in a style more consistent with my typically introspective and reflective style, I had ChatGPT analyze the style and tone of one of my favorite recent essays, Easternmost. As this was written entirely without any input at all from AI, it was perfect. From that analysis, I decided to give ChatGPT this prompt:
Write (subject) in an introspective and reflective style. Use descriptive language to paint a picture of the setting and emotions. Employ colorful metaphors and imagery. The tone should be a mix of melancholy and acceptance. The text should have a sense of nostalgia and contemplation of personal growth and change over time.
For the introduction, I replaced “(subject)” with “an introduction to an essay titled Dazzled By Star Power.” Here’s what it spit out:
In the grand cosmic theater of our society, we orbit with both gravity and fear around an all-consuming phenomenon, a radiant beacon of aspiration and dread: Star Power. It is an unearthly spectacle, akin to the glittering celestial bodies above us, commanding our gaze, entrancing us in its incandescent glare.
We live, as it seems, in the age of the Astral Deities, where luminous beings govern the sky and the ordinary human soul yearns for its own ethereal ascent. This star power, a galactic beacon in our collective consciousness, illuminates the labyrinth of societal norms, drawing us towards its enchanting lure.
As humans, we have an innate, almost primal, desire to be seen, to be recognized; the allure of fame can be a siren song, the melody intoxicatingly sweet, yet laced with peril. We yearn for our ‘fifteen minutes of fame,’ an ephemeral sunrise on our stage, longing to bask in the limelight, craving the warmth it provides. This allure, paradoxically beautiful and brutal, echoes a storm trapped in a teacup, a whirlwind of desires in the confines of the human heart.
The pursuit of this fleeting glory ignites a strange fire within us. A fire that does not scorch, but etches. A heat that does not burn, but brands. It brands us with a dream, a mirage, of being more than just stardust, of being a star. The bittersweet paradox lies in the truth that as we yearn for those ephemeral moments in the spotlight, we surrender our identity to the shadow cast by the very light we crave.
Today, we dwell in the era of the perpetual spectacle, where the dominance of celebrity culture pervades every corner of our existence. It’s an intricate tapestry of endless narratives, woven with the golden threads of fame, shimmering under the harsh glow of the 24-hour news cycle and the relentless, all-seeing eye of social media. This tapestry unfolds as a grand celestial map, charting the constellation of our shared fascination, a compendium of twinkling heroes and villains, tragic downfalls, and triumphant comebacks.
The ceaseless current of information and imagery transforms ordinary life into a cascade of stardust, where even mundane human moments are imbued with an otherworldly glow. Our existence has been painted with the cosmic hues of the stars, where the ordinary and the extraordinary collapse into each other like celestial bodies, forming the peculiar black hole of the celebrity culture.
Reflecting upon this, I am reminded of the unchanging cycle of the stars. They rise and fall, burn and fade, leaving behind only echoes of their brilliance. Over time, I find the same cyclical nature within myself: a twinkle of dreams, a surge of ambition, followed by a fade into acceptance.
There is a quiet melancholy in acknowledging this cycle, yet within this acceptance, I uncover the constancy of my growth. For even as the glow of the star fades, the stardust it leaves behind feeds the universe, nourishing new stars, new dreams. It is a testament to change, a testament to resilience.
Just like the stars, we too are ephemeral beings, yet we burn brightly, even in the face of obscurity. Our own journeys, our struggles and triumphs, may not always be under the glaring spotlight, but they are just as potent, just as meaningful. As I navigate this star-studded landscape, I find comfort in the rhythm of this universal dance. A dance of birth, life, death, and rebirth. A dance of human endeavor and star power. A dance of melancholy, acceptance, and celestial resilience.
While this is absolutely beautiful prose, it is obviously quite over-the-top in its delivery. I’ve bolded the parts that I really like. I may even decide to use bits and pieces verbatim, in which case I will in the Colophon mention that this post was edited with the assistance of ChatGPT. But, I can’t use most of this.
I recently generated text with the same prompt for the other five sections of this essay. It’s just as over the top. Now, you might ask, why don’t I ask GPT-4 to write in a “conversational tone” or many of the other prompt suggestions many popular websites offer to get natural sounding content? I have several reasons for this:
- I want my content to be imbued with my own personality
- I don’t want my text to sound like every other website on the internet
- My experiences with common techniques for getting “natural sounding” text read very artificial to me.
After pondering for a bit, I finally decided that rewriting an essay just by creating prompts as part of a task-oriented approach just felt too mechanical and the writing reads much too forced. I would never write even the most fanciful poetry with such flamboyance! Instead, I decided I will instead take a conversational approach. Let’s chill with ChatGPT and let’s rewrite an essay together with AI.
Me: Some time recently, I asked you to create an outline based on an old blog post I had culled from my website. The outline itself was brilliant. So, I decided to have you write the essay using the given outline in an introspective and reflective tone similar to my own personal essays. While the output contained beautiful, flowing prose, the voice of the text was incredibly artificial in its overwhelming flamboyance and verbosity. So, I’ve now realized it’s much better to take a collaborative approach. Here are the main points that you helped me to identify for this essay, entitled “Dazzled By Star Power”
- The Over-saturation of Celebrity News
- Celebrities as Ordinary People
- The Toll of Celebrity Status
- Reconsidering Celebrity Obsession
Let’s write this essay together. But first, I’d like your thoughts on what would make for a 1,000 word essay that people will want to engage with and share.
ChatGPT: Absolutely, I’d be delighted to help you in crafting an engaging and shareable essay. When it comes to writing an essay that will resonate with readers, there are several key factors to consider:
- Relevance and Relatability: The topic should be something that a broad audience can relate to. Your choice of discussing celebrity culture and its effects is a good one as it’s a phenomenon that affects almost everyone in today’s media-saturated world.
- Unique Perspective: People are drawn to content that offers a fresh take on familiar topics. By discussing the toll of celebrity status and reconsidering celebrity obsession, you’re providing a perspective that goes beyond the surface-level fascination with fame.
- Clarity and Simplicity: While eloquence and flamboyance have their place, clear and simple language often makes an essay more accessible and enjoyable to a broad audience. Complex ideas can be powerful, but they should be expressed in a way that’s easy to understand.
- Engaging Structure: The essay should have a logical and engaging flow. It should start with a strong introduction that hooks the reader, followed by a body that builds upon the main idea, and conclude with a powerful ending that leaves a lasting impression.
- Real-life Examples and Anecdotes: Incorporating real-life examples or anecdotes can make an essay more engaging and help illustrate your points. This can be particularly effective when discussing celebrities as ordinary people and the toll of celebrity status.
- Call to Action: A great essay doesn’t just end – it leaves the reader with something to think about or do. This could be a call to action to reconsider their own celebrity obsessions or a question that encourages them to reflect on the topic further.
- Edit and Polish: Lastly, the essay should be well-edited and polished. This includes not only checking for grammar and spelling errors but also ensuring that the tone and voice of the essay are consistent and that the essay is well-paced and concise.
By keeping these factors in mind, we can aim to create an essay that not only provides insightful commentary on the impact of celebrity culture but also engages the reader and prompts them to share the piece with others. Now, let’s start crafting the essay using your identified points.
Me: I actually have some good personal examples of being dazzled by star power to share in the introduction. So, let’s start with those. Here’s my introduction below. Let me know what you think of it:
I’ve never been a big fan of celebrity culture. But, I can’t say that I haven’t been dazzled by star power before. Having grown up with Star Trek: the Next Generation from the time I was a few months old until I was seven years old, I was always dazzled by the main cast members: Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker, and especially Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data. They and the rest of the cast are such great performers that they literally personified the roles that they play on that show. But, as I grew older, I began to realize, those were just roles they played on a television show. Eventually, I recognized them as people, just like me, who were more than just the jobs they were most famous for performing.
Later on in my life, I began to recognize how many sports fans regard star players as somehow being super-human, going to the point of even deifying them at times. The best case I can think of is Michael Jordan, truly a transcendent talent in the game of basketball. But, just like anyone who reaches that level of stardom, it was hard work and dedication that got him there. Turns out, Michael is just a human being, who decided to quit basketball and pursue his dream of baseball for a time. But, the push for him to return to basketball was so strong, he eventually did return and polished off a Hall of Fame career.
Being that I came to accept film stars and sports legends as people like anyone else, I find the obsession with celebrity culture a bit unnerving. I haven’t had the chance to meet many celebrities myself, but when I do, I make it a point to treat them just like I would a friend. Ask them what they are up to right now. Don’t ask them the same questions they hear a million times or demand an autograph or photo. Treat them like people, because they are. Yet, so many people objectify celebrities, actually dehumanizing them in the process. How can anyone wonder why so many celebrities have nervous breakdowns or after a time shut themselves off from the outside world?
I do have a few ideas why celebrity status can eventually take a toll on individuals, and why we should reconsider celebrity obsession. The greatest culprit for the over saturation of celebrity culture? It’s the proliferation of the celebrity news industry.
ChatGPT: Your introduction is engaging and effective. You’ve managed to tie in personal anecdotes, which make your narrative relatable, and you’ve clearly outlined your main points. Here are a few things I particularly appreciate:
- Shared Experience: Starting with your experience of being dazzled by the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation and sports legends like Michael Jordan helps ground your points in lived experiences. This makes the issue feel more real and relatable to your readers.
- Transition: You’ve done a great job transitioning from your personal experiences to the larger topic of celebrity culture and how it affects society and celebrities themselves. This helps to frame the rest of the essay and gives readers an idea of what to expect.
- Tone: Your tone is introspective and reflective, which fits the topic and style of personal essay perfectly.
- Engagement: The ending of your introduction does a great job of setting up what’s to come in the essay. You’ve posed intriguing questions about celebrity culture that make the reader want to continue reading.
In terms of improvements, I would only suggest a few minor changes. While the flow is generally good, there might be a slight improvement in readability with a bit more transition between the personal stories and the broader points. Additionally, you might consider mentioning the other two main points (Celebrities as Ordinary People, and Reconsidering Celebrity Obsession) in your introduction as well. This would provide a more complete roadmap for the reader of what’s to come in the essay.
Overall, you’ve made a fantastic start to your essay! I’m looking forward to collaborating on the rest of it with you.
(Notably I did mention Reconsidering Celebrity Obsession, but the fact it brought it up means I could work on that bit. So I rewrote the last paragraph… I could probably transition between the experience and my main points a bit better, but I can handle that later.)
Me: Thanks for your suggestions. I have rewritten the last paragraph of the introduction like so:
I do have a few ideas why celebrity status can eventually take a toll on both celebrities and those who obsess over them. In this essay, I feel it necessary why we should reconsider celebrity obsession and remember that all celebrities started out as ordinary people just like us. The greatest culprit for the over saturation of celebrity culture? It’s the proliferation of the celebrity news industry.
Now, let’s try and hammer out the main points of the essay: the over-saturation of celebrity news, why it’s important to see celebrities as ordinary people, the toll of celebrity status on famous individuals, and why we must reconsider celebrity obsession.
ChatGPT: Absolutely, I’m glad the suggestions were helpful. Your revised paragraph seamlessly incorporates the main points of your essay. Now, let’s delve deeper into the body of the essay:
- Over-saturation of Celebrity NewsThe 24-hour news cycle and the rise of social media have led to an unprecedented level of access to the lives of celebrities. But with this constant barrage of information, we often lose sight of the fact that celebrities are people too, not just characters on a screen. By deconstructing the relentless need for celebrity updates, we can start to question why we are so fascinated by every aspect of their lives.
- Celebrities as Ordinary PeopleBeneath the glitz and glamor of fame, celebrities are ordinary people with their own strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and fears. They have personal lives, families, and hobbies outside their careers. It’s crucial to remember this humanity, not only for the celebrities themselves but also for our own well-being. Idolizing celebrities can create unrealistic expectations and standards, causing us to overlook the value in our own lives.
- The Toll of Celebrity StatusWhile fame and fortune can bring many advantages, they also come with immense pressure and scrutiny. Constant attention from the media and the public can have detrimental effects on mental health, personal relationships, and overall well-being. Discussing these drawbacks can help us empathize with celebrities and understand the cost of fame.
- Reconsidering Celebrity ObsessionIt’s important to reassess our fixation on celebrity culture and the impact it has on our perception of success, self-worth, and identity. While there’s nothing wrong with admiring someone’s talent or achievements, obsessing over their lives can divert attention from our own aspirations and potential. By shifting our focus from the lives of celebrities to our own, we can foster a healthier perspective on success and happiness.
Weaving these points together, we can help readers understand the complexity of celebrity culture and its impact, urging them to reconsider their own perceptions and behaviors. Now, let’s start writing the essay in more detail.
Me: I think I can take on the fleshing out of the body sections by myself. But, one final thing I’d like to ask your help with: a call to action for readers to reconsider their own celebrity obsessions or a question that encourages them to reflect on the topic further.
ChatGPT: Absolutely, I’d be glad to help with that. Here’s a potential call to action and reflective question to conclude your essay:
Call to Action
Let’s strive to shift our focus from idolizing celebrities to appreciating them for their work, while also recognizing their humanity. We can engage with media in a way that respects the boundaries of those in the public eye. Instead of consuming every bit of gossip or paparazzi photo, we can choose to support the art, the sport, the music, or the causes that these individuals contribute to. We must remember to celebrate our own achievements and value our own lives as much as those we see on screen.
How much of our own potential are we overlooking when we invest so much time and energy into the lives of celebrities? The next time you find yourself captivated by a celebrity story, take a moment to reflect: Are you appreciating their talent, or are you drawn into the narrative of their personal life? Are we, as a society, allowing our fascination with celebrity culture to overshadow our own personal growth and the value we find in our own experiences?
By prompting your readers to reevaluate their engagement with celebrity culture, they will not only understand the points you’ve made throughout the essay, but they might also start to make changes in their own behavior and perceptions.
Me: These are brilliant ideas with which to conclude the essay. Thanks for all your help. I’ll seek your thoughts on my complete first draft later.
ChatGPT: I’m glad you found the suggestions helpful! I look forward to reading your first draft. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any more assistance or feedback as you continue writing. Happy writing!
I hope you found this Chilling With Chat session helpful! I most certainly did. While some of the advice ChatGPT gives can be very general, it really helps to get engaged with the subject matter further. I’m going to find a way to work in a lot of the suggestions, including the calls to action, into a complete draft of this essay.
Let me know how you’ve found collaborating with AI useful, or your own experiences with using ChatGPT, Bing Chat, or similar tools to craft engaging content. I’ll be back with much more general conversational pieces with these GPT-4 chatbots very soon. But, if you find these workshops helpful, please let me know so that I can do more of these.