First a warning, this blog post will ramble because it was written by me… it is centered around the idea of what Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) effect is on our society.
The spark for this post centers around a number of articles about ChatGPT and its ability to write essays for students. One article used the example of a literary criticism essay covering the works of Emily Dickinson’s work. ChatGPT did a fine job, but of course it did.
Honestly, there are only so many ways to write a literary criticism over a single poem. I actually use poetry to introduce the literary criticism essay. We discuss a number of poems, breakdown how elements like similes, personification, even rhyming is used in the poems. Then the students write their essays. At the heart of a literary criticism is the idea of teaching the reader something about the poem.
So, many of the students’ essays read about the same. The introductions and conclusions are different, yet the body of the essays center around what anyone can learn if they analyzed the poem themselves.
I’m not especially worried about ChatGPT writing essays, or even its own poetry. AI will never be able to write a narrative essay, at least not a real one. A narrative essay is about the meaning of a moment for the writer.
AI doesn’t deal with the complexity of living. It will never be hungry. Or feel the joy of a great meal. AI will never open an unexpected present that fills their heart. Or deal with the bad mood of a loved one.
I do worry about us giving our lives over to technology in general.
I see too many students just consuming their screens. At the moment it is TikTok. They watch all these people doing different things, while they just sit there. I actually encourage students to make their own videos (yes, I’ve been in a few).
Also, the idea of just letting technology tell us what we should listen to or watch next; from products on Amazon to a playlist Spotify thinks we would like. Yes, we do tend to enjoy certain genres of music, but there is so much of our human experience connected to media that an algorithm can never give us a perfect recommendation.
As an example, I will listen to a song or watch a movie that I do not like because someone I care about likes the movie or song. I usually find something interesting from the media, even if it doesn’t get saved to a playlist.
Yet, we can just let technology live for us… that is what I am afraid of. What’s so funny is how we keep advancing technology to be more human. We marvel at how close we can get AI to write like Edgar Allen Poe, yet here we are trying to be human but addicted to the technology.
What I know for sure is that AI will never enjoy the tradition of making blueberry muffins for breakfast every Sunday morning. And that I will always write my own stuff.
I check my email to find a message from a flash fiction submission. It is my fourth rejection email in two days, for poetry and short stories.
My mood is not good this morning. Recently I have been seriously considering giving up. I talk about it a little in The Creative Moment podcast, “The Idea of Success”. That was a couple weeks ago, now this morning, I feel like giving up the dream.
I can’t give up writing, that is who I am. Poetry is the way I think. I will continue to jot down ideas on scraps of paper. Compose verses in notebooks. But the dream of being known as a poet, as a writer is fading.
Now, I know this is where people would give all kinds of motivational quotes and stories of authors who published their first book in their sixties. I know all of that. I know Stephen King’s story about his wife digging the story “Carrie” out of the trash. (Yes, I know he was an English teacher, too).
But this is a low point. Everyone has them. And low points are powerful moments. Maybe choices shouldn’t be made at this point, but we shouldn’t discard the emotions and self-evaluation that comes at these moments.
Questions / thoughts I have to work through:
I might not be a good writer or poet.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time on my craft.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time promoting my works.
What are my goals regarding my writing career?
Feelings come and go. Right now, I feel defeated. I am at a low spot. But it doesn’t mean this moment can’t be a positive for me or for anyone that is at a similar point in life. A low point doesn’t feel good, but if you see it as an opportunity to self-reflect, prioritize goals, and spend a little time working with the moment, you might find you can climb higher tomorrow.
For a minute, or two, consider how captivating bridges are in our lives, both physically and metaphorically.
In physical form bridges represent our ingenuity of getting over obstacles. Whether it is a river or two mountain tops, we design bridges to help us on our journey. And then to return home. The wonder of them expands when you consider the style, the personality of the bridges we build. From the simple log laid down by a child to get over a stream, to the The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China that covers over a hundred miles, each bridge is unique. Not only in the material used or the architectural design, but also the environment it was built in; the obstacle it was built to overcome.
As I’ve traveled over the years I’ve come to appreciate the bridges I’ve seen and used. I don’t think I am alone in this joy because the idea of a bridge is ingrained in our lives. We understand the importance of reaching the other side of an obstacle, even when it is in our relationships, our opportunities in life.
We are always told not to “burn any bridges”.
The advice is good. All of our relationships are metaphorically connected by the bridges we build, by the obstacles we overcome in the relationships, and each connection has its own style influenced by the moments we share together. Burning a bridge is a devastating step in any relationship. (I will acknowledge and confess that there are bridges that do need to be burned down, but that is for another time.)
Then, there are the bridges we build that we never get to see in use. I know because I build bridges. I am a writer.
Like all artists I create a bridge when I write a blog post, a book, or a poem. I construct a way for readers to find their way to my side of the moment. We connect through the words I use to build a bridge between our shared lives, our shared moments, or to allow the reader to explore a new view from my mountain top.
All artists do this. How do I know, because I am a reader. I listen to music. I visit museums. I have walked on bridges created by all kinds of artists. I go back in time when I read Wordsworth’s poem “The World Is Too Much With Us,” and feel the same angst about society today. I could spend all day at any type of museum. As part of our honeymoon my wife and I went to the Art Institute in Chicago. (Yes, we went to a Cub’s game, too.)
I always get choked up when I hear this line from the song “Humble and Kind”:
Consider for a minute, or two, how powerful bridges are to the fullness of our lives. Whether we are driving on a family vacation, listening to a new song by our favorite artist, or even reading a blog post by someone new; each bridge is built with care and a unique style. I know because I build bridges, I am a writer.
This is the eighth year my family has chosen their one word to focus on for the year. This year we decorated a paper mache letter; the first letter of our first name.
As you can see my word is MILES.
There are a number of factors that are connected to my word, from wanting to walk more (putting miles on my shoes) to taking another family vacation (putting miles on the car). I also have goals for my writing (putting miles on my computer and pen) and sending my work for consideration to more places (couldn’t think of a clever ‘putting miles on’ saying for this, so consider thinking of your own play on words here).
I’ll try to keep you updated on the miles I travel, in some form, this year. Here is to a great year ahead and the scenery I’ll encounter as I travel from this day.
I’m not sure where this blog post will end up, but it will cover coffee and Christmas lights. The idea for this post comes from the book Coffee: Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate, which I recently finished. I loved the book! It got me thinking about lots of things, but mostly coffee.
I proposed to my wife at the local coffee shop, The Blue Moon. We even had wedding photos taken there. I helped create their signature drink, The Silken Moon.
It is past 9 o’clock in the evening and I have a cup of coffee next to me and the Christmas lights on. I’m drinking a holiday flavored coffee. The cinnamon mixed with the warmth of the coffee fills my soul. The Christmas lights make me smile.
The house is quiet. The coffee cup has a tangible weight to it, like the serenity of the darkness at the edge of the colored lights. I know I am here. I know the world is moving outside the house. There are moments happening right now that are breaking people’s spirits. I hate knowing that. It is sad to feel helpless to change it.
But I am here.
I take a strong sip, the coffee flows down my throat in a warm wave. A blue Christmas light is flickering, but staying lit. And I am doing what I love to do, writing. Creating a moment through words to share with loved ones and strangers. I may never change the world, but I can create a moment that helps build up someone instead of tearing them down.
I can share a symbolic cup of coffee with you. Share a moment of peace that shines like a Christmas tree. This post will be a connection between us, even if it is for just a few minutes. I hope it warms your heart.
My cup is empty, the hour is late, here is to a new day and a chance to feel loved.
The most important lesson I have learned in half a century is that there is joy in every day. I can have a horrible day at work but come home and have a dance party with my kids. This lesson took years to understand, and takes strength to accomplish. I have to leave the bad day at work to fully enjoy dancing with my kids.
I know that this list will not surprise anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis, I’ve touched on these in different ways through the years. But hopefully this post will remind you of the things that bring you joy.
I love learning. School was my escape from all the craziness I was going through. Even when I was the new kid so many times growing up. Each school provided opportunities to grow. For the last couple of years I have participated in the challenge to read 60 books in a year. I don’t get to 60 every year, but I spend the year learning and I love that.
When I thought about the role walking has had in my life, I thought back to all the times my best friend and I would walk by the river. How, especially in junior high, we walked all over town. And how I was the only senior that had to walk to school everyday… the consequence of me wrecking a car my junior year. Walking is good exercise, but the joy is in sharing with others. I take the girls on snack walks, we have nature walks, there is a certain joy to sharing the moment and world with others as I walk.
One of the best parts of being a dad is watching my kids in activities: elementary concerts, basketball, soccer, and science fairs to name just a few of the activities I’ve spent enjoying, my wife at my side, and sometimes a coffee in my hand. It matters to me, in part because my father never saw me compete in anything. I swear I tear up every time one of my kids sees me in the crowd and they wave or nod their head at me.
I park the minivan facing the lake. My wife and I people-watch as we enjoy a Blizzard. Cookie dough for my wife. I usually will try the special flavor of the month. These small moments intertwined joy into life. And if we pay attention, not getting lost in the routine of life, every day is filled with these small moments. Talking with my kids before bed. Letting them help make blueberry muffins. Holding hands with my wife as we watch Miami Vice. Yes, I believe joy is the thread that determines the way we live.
This is no surprise for anyone. Writing brings a level of joy that ignites my soul. When the thoughts in my head and feelings stirring in my heart find their way to the page, I feel powerful. I feel complete. I feel vulnerable because the words I write are honest reflections of who I am.
Thanks for sharing your time with me as I start the next half century. Do something that brings you joy today… because if we are not here to feel joy, to love others, to sing badly to our favorite songs… then I don’t know the meaning of life.
I enjoyed taking the trash out to the end of the driveway today because it felt like spring. There was not a cloud in the sky. I placed the garbage and recycling totes at the end of our driveway and then just stood there enjoying the beginning of a nice day.
I noticed the moon was visible, then a plane that was approaching the moon. I took a picture of the moment.
When I first saw the plane, I thought it would be cool if the plane would fly across the moon. It would make for a fun picture. As I watched, it became obvious that the plane would miss the moon. I found that sad for a second. Then this classic quote came to mind;
As I watched the plane, getting ready to take the picture, I thought how wonderful the view must be from the plane. I started to think about my own goals, about being a writer, about being a poet. I have never made it to the moon, but the view has been breathtaking.
Crazy dreams are worth chasing. They allow us to fly, to rise above the routine of living. Crazy goals give us a chance to see our life from a different view. Chasing a dream is a ticket to a different understanding ourselves. Reaching for a dream as far away as the moon keeps our eyes and hearts up. That airplane was not going to reach the moon, but it was a beautiful morning to fly.
For those readers that have followed my blog or my writing career, you know I’ve been doing this writing thing on my own. My first collection of poetry, And I Never Told You, was printed at a local printing shop. I sold copies through the local coffee shop and by carrying copies with me in case someone wanted a copy.
Today there is social media. I use Amazon to publish my books. I use Goodreads’ giveaway option to give signed copies away. I’ve written letters to libraries and stores to publicize my books.
Being an indie author is hard. One thing all writers want is to know people have read and enjoyed their works. I have had the privilege of learning how my writing has inspired readers. (I share that story in the blog post: “Our Gift is for Others”.)
As I was organizing information for the winners of my latest giveaway, I wondered how many states have received one of my books (some states have more than one book).
As a writer it is cool to think one of my books is sitting on a bookshelf or night stand in Hawaii or Tennessee. Maybe there is a bookmark poking out of the top, or some of the corners are folded. Thinking that someone might lend the book to a friend because they think that person would like my poems makes me feel proud of the work I put into my writing.
Well, somehow we survived 2020. To be honest, though, I’m not sure how we will do in 2021. There is too much hate, apathy, and disregard of the sacredness of life for me to be fully hopeful that 2021 will be any better. I know this post is starting out on a negative vibe, but it is honest. No, HONEST is not my word for this year, but being honest with myself did lead me to my word for 2021.
LIVE, as in live music, is my word for 2021.
There are a number of factors that influenced my choice.
First is my poetry. As soon as possible, I will be attending open mic events. I also have some social media ideas that I will be investigating to share my poetry. As much as possible I want to present my works to the world. Where will these steps take me? I don’t know… and that is the exciting part.
Second, I want my everyday life to be more live. Meaning that this year I don’t spend valuable time behind a screen. I am live in my own life. I am there for my family and friends. I am there for my goals. It is too easy to feel like I am doing something when I check my Instagram feed, or Twitter. It feels like I have accomplished something when I complete a level on a match-three game. But, honestly, I have done nothing.
Maybe because I will turn 50 this year, but the third aspect of my word is to be thankful for this life by living it… yes, this connects to point two, but is deeper than just putting down the phone. There is a spiritual aspect to living. No matter what you might believe, we only get today. And our life is the collection of these days. Making sure I am live each day is one way to pay respects to this chance I have. To be thankful for the love of family and friends. To make this world a better place, even if it is just in my home…it’s the best place I know to start.
So, here is to a new year, 2021.
Here is to new poems and opportunities.
Here is to today being lived in front of a live audience.