Updated: Nov 14
Setting the scene.
I am a copywriter. Among other things. I create written content on topics such as community, team building, and mental health for different clients*.
I started in 2015 and back then I felt free, the words were my oyster.
With the years, I got better (that's the hope) but I also got more restricted.
Somehow I went from asking myself: "Will people want to read that and will they feel touched by it one way or another?" to wondering: "How high will this rank and how can I reduce the reading time?"
Yes, this is a complaint piece. So before you tell me "You've gotta keep up with your time", "You're such a boomer", or "Progress is great"... sure, sure. I am not a Hamish. I too am glued to my phone laughing at dog reels the algorithm selected for me, and I do love having Netflix suggest shows to me because I watched Friends 45058 times.
I applaud progress when it fixes problems. Especially when it comes to curing and feeding people. I can also understand we all have areas of expertise and for some, the idea of sitting at a desk writing for hours may sound more excruciating than fulfilling. And so tools like Chat GPT come really handy. I get that.
But where does the need for support stop, and the dependence start? Where do we lose the will to do things for the joy and stimulation they bring?
For me, a writer stuck between that rock and that hard place, this is where my motivation, inspiration, and joy all come to die. Or at the very least, to get very, very, very bored.
That would be Chat GPT. The tool that is here to stay and save everyone so much time. And after all, isn't that all we have, time?
Once again, I get it. I get the part where it's sparing us all from excruciating and boring tasks that never brought any inspiration or joy to anyone. But we are humans. We always find ways to take something good and make it bad just because we want more out of it**.
As a writer, CHAT GPT is the rock at the bottom of my shoe. It does not stop me from moving forward but it's there and I can't pretend it is not.
It might be difficult to understand for some, but spending time looking for the right word, looking up synonyms, diving into a world of idioms, reading others' work picking out gems, and finding the perfect title are all little moments of pure joy for me.
Outsourcing this would mean more time...to do what? To Optimize for SEO I assume.
THE HARD PLACE
Man, it's hard to stand out in a world of Search Engine Optimization.
When you worry about SEO you find yourself worrying about clicks more than constructive comments on your pieces. We turn storytelling into Key Performance Indicators.
" I enjoyed your newsletter!"
"Cool, but did you CLICK ON THE CTA?🧐"
It is hard to sell when you only care about selling. Well, it is hard to create human-intended quality content when you only care about how an algorithm is going to rank you.
I miss the good old world of Word Of Mouth. When you would get something because someone you trust recommended it to you. And not because the first (sponsored) hit on Google had the best clickbait headline.
TO COMMUNICATE IS TO CONNECT
I say "please" and "thank you" to CHAT GPT, a force of habit.
Yes, I use it. We talk about stuff "it" and I. We debate ideas. We rarely disagree. And that is usually what scares me. I connect with it. But there is no one there. No one behind that screen on the other side but millions of pieces somehow being aggregated and regurgitated without common sense.
You can tell me not everything needs feelings and emotions and woo-woo stuff. But don't we communicate to connect at the end of the day? Or are we dropping the act completely and saying it as it is? We are just communicating to sell?
Don't we remember more when we feel something? When we laugh or when we get touched? When it triggers something deep within us. Isn't that why we remember movies and songs more than our dry high school classes?
CHAT GPT can do that, and bring some emotions into its work. Of course, I am sure.
Will nothing ever be genuinely new again then?
SEO forces you to write within the box when you are thinking outside of it.
You do not write for an audience of people anymore, you "write for SEO". And real soon, you won't write, Chat GPT will do it all for you. But that's ok, because who still reads nowadays anyway?
YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO
I will not stop Progress. Nor will I try. The truth is, this is how I like to write. But sure, I can write for SEO. I can prompt Chat GPT. I do it daily.
The passion though, the feeling of flow, the pride of writing something great... I get it when it all comes from my head and my heart, typing freely without keyword shackles. I got so much joy out of creating this piece. I took time to build up the structure, craft the titles, include some touches of hilarious humor, and research some facts. I did not waste time wondering if I had used the right "keywords", or if I had enough outbound and inbound links, and I did not try to squeeze a repetitive sentence in each paragraph. And so this piece will get buried at the bottom of page 78, within the 5 million hits Google will list next time someone searches for "Chat GPT and SEO".
It is fine. I will be one of these craftsmen who do everything "as it used to be done", hidden away in a village in the middle of nowhere, who becomes part of the folklore and are eventually sought out again, when "handmade" is back in fashion.
You know where to find me and my quill.
* Just a disclaimer before I lose my job 😬, I very much like my clients and their purpose. It gives me joy to write for them. I just wished they would also be free from this race to the top of the rankings. But they aren't.
** loosely paraphrasing Michael the Architect in "The Good Place".