My Thoughts on AI as a Writer, Photographer, & Artist

Rabbit and rosebush pencil sketch by Sara A. Noe in progress


AI is everywhere now. Some people are excited about all of the new possibilities on the horizon for humanity. Others are a bit more skeptical.

I fall into the latter category. Does AI have the capability of being an incredible tool? Yes. But until laws catch up with technology, many artists across many mediums on edge, and for good reason.

AI has been “trained” using art, photographs, images, and written content created (and copyrighted) by human artists, photographers, and writers… in almost all cases, without their consent. Essentially, from an artistic perspective, AI was built upon a massive case of intellectual property theft that violated copyrights.

Now, one could argue that artists have been using the work of other artists throughout our entire history. Art inspires art. Nothing is truly original.

And to that, I would agree. I pulled inspiration from my favorite books, movies, and television shows when I wrote my fantasy novels and combined all of the elements I loved the most (found families, fugitives, supernatural powers, fight scenes, cat-and-mouse POV shifts, tortured characters that are morally gray and psychologically complex). I can tell you that my writing frequently utilizes em dashes thanks to the impact of reading Emily Dickinson when I was in high school, and my fondness for worldbuilding undoubtedly came from reading Tolkien in middle school. When I’m drawing a new art piece, the very first thing I do is scroll through Google images and screenshot relevant photos that I can study for proportions, shadows, textures, etc.

The difference is I am using these for reference and inspiration, then building my own unique style around the echoes of the pieces that touched my soul so deeply they became ingrained in me as artist.

AI essentially absorbs this content without permission and then dissects, combines, and regurgitates it. Despite the name “artificial intelligence,” it is not intelligent, and it cannot be inspired by existing works. It’s nothing more than a complex series of algorithms. There’s no thought or emotion behind it.

My thoughts about AI are not all doom and gloom. I’m excited about the prospect of harnessing AI as a powerful tool that can help automate menial tasks, improve analytics, and make our jobs faster and easier so we can spend less time working and more time enjoying life.

But sadly, capitalism requires laborers, and we’ve built a society that has linked self-worth with employment. AI should have freed us to spend less time working and more time making art, but it went in the wrong direction. Now, AI is encroaching on artists’ livelihoods.

Author’s Perspective

Am I worried about AI eliminating my job as an author? No. AI is improving at a rapid pace, but it’s nowhere near ready for that level of creative writing.

I’ve talked before about what it means to “write to market.” To some authors, it means identifying your target reader base and writing/marketing specifically to that niche. But to other authors, it means identifying bestsellers and essentially copying that exact same plot formula with all the usual tropes but tweaking it into a “new” story with slightly different characters. (The romance genre is especially notorious for that because readers like the familiarity and nostalgia, but romance isn’t the only one; there are culprits in every genre.)

Personally, I don’t support the second example, but I will acknowledge that it has proven to be lucrative and successful for many authors. It doesn’t require much thought or creativity. And that type of “write to market” style is a prime opportunity for AI because the algorithm essentially does exactly what those authors do.

Can I foresee lazy “authors” using AI to churn out unimaginative copy-and-paste formula novels? Absolutely. AI will just save them a lot of time. But I don’t think those unoriginal books will be successful. If a human couldn’t be bothered to write it, why should one be bothered to read it?

I’ll be perfectly honest — I didn’t write to market. I wrote the story that had been exploding in my imagination for many years before I finally felt compelled to get it out of my head and into a tangible form. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to find a niche that enjoyed my work after I published, even if I hadn’t written the story specifically for them. My novels are truly a heartfelt passion project. I just can’t see AI being able to successfully capture the emotions, human experiences, relatable characters with complex psychology, unexpected twists, and overall creativity with any kind of story that veers away from a boring and predictable plot formula.

I can, however, potentially see AI encroaching on ghost writers. I’ve never approved of ghost writing (even though, as a freelance writer, I was technically a ghost writer myself). Ghost writing is when a client hires someone to write content, but the credit for that content goes to the client, not the actual writer. Personally, I find ghost writing to be deceitful. You might think you’re reading a book or article written by a celebrity, world leader, or high-profile entrepreneur with decades of success and expertise when the real writer actually had NONE of those credentials.

When I became a freelance writer, I didn’t realize that freelance writing was really ghost writing at first. The articles I wrote for clients were published under someone else’s byline and professional credentials.

In my humble opinion, ghost writing is disrespectful not only for the writer, who did all of the work and receives zero credit, but also to the reader, who incorrectly attributes the work to someone who simply slapped their name on the content like the slacker who didn’t contribute to the group project in school and then gleefully claimed the good grade.

Ghost writers don’t just write blog posts and short articles. People also hire them to write entire books. I think the practice is essentially false advertising, but it’s legal, and it’s common. If people want to publish a book but don’t have the time or skills to write it themselves, then I can certainly see an open niche for AI to fill.

Writer’s Perspective

As far as AI eliminating jobs for writers… that is a much more pessimistic topic.

After I left my full-time office job in 2021, I went on to work as a freelance writer with a few different employers. The first one involved writing job-related articles such as interview and résumé tips. I later moved on to work with a writing agency that sent client-submitted projects out to their network of contracted writers. I wrote website content ranging from articles about backyard stone pizza ovens, to beverage innovations, to sales marketing software, to “About Us” pages for businesses.

I also ended up working for the founder of that writing agency and creating content that was featured on prominent entrepreneurship websites and her own blog. After my contract with the agency was terminated early in 2022, I stayed on with the original founder (who had sold the agency a few months prior to my departure) and continued working as a freelancer creating web content for clients who hired our small team to build their website for them.

Imagine my surprise (and alarm) when the founder sent an email campaign just a few weeks ago with the subject: “Why I quit before AI could take my job.”

This was coming from an industry-revolutionizing content marketer who built a six-figure writing agency that had seen tremendous growth and success for over a decade. She was an expert at reading the market and predicting trends, demands, and opportunities… and she chose to pivot away from human writers to prioritize AI content instead.

For the most part, I’ve kept quiet about AI. I’ve been watching, observing, waiting to see how everything plays out… feeling a pit in my stomach the whole time. But seeing that email subject in my inbox was an eye-opener. The writing world is evolving rapidly, and as much as it pains me to say this, the future of freelance writing has become bleak.

A year ago, AI was positioned to be a tool for writers rather than a replacement. It was helpful in generating suggestions for topics, but it was rife with awkward sentences, incorrect facts, and sometimes even plagiarized content that needed a human writer’s expertise for guidance and major revisions. The content that AI generated was not ready to publish right out of the gate.

But the technology has improved drastically. When a client submits a project request to a freelance writer, they have to provide us with information about their business so we know the services they offer, the desired tone of their brand, and relevant information necessary to accurately represent their business on their website. Now, why would a client pay a human writer to spend several hours researching and writing an article when they can simply input that exact same information they had to provide anyway into an AI prompt and get that content at a fraction of that time and cost?

Creative writing is my passion. Freelance writing was better for me than working in customer service or suffering through a 40-hour work week in an office, but I could never say that I was passionate about it. Even though it was a writing job, it was still mundane work at its core… and that’s exactly what AI was designed to do. I had to research topics, verify and cite sources, and put together articles or web pages with the information I’d compiled. AI can do all of that.

As much as it breaks my heart, I don’t see a future for freelance writers anymore. Not for the types of freelance roles that I’ve worked in, anyway. The people who don’t have the time or skills to write content themselves will look for the fastest, cheapest way to generate content. Outsourcing those needs to AI is a practical solution.

Sara A. Noe with her art in her booth at a festival in Mishawaka, Indiana

Artist’s Perspective

Most of the conversations I’ve seen online about AI are centered around the problem of AI-generated art. The primary root of this issue lies in the fact that AI algorithms were “trained” with art that was used in blatant copyright violation and without the permission of the original artists, who also received no compensation.

Artists do NOT have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to protect their work. Technically speaking, artwork is protected by copyright as soon as the art is fixed in a tangible form. (This also applies to written works.) Basically, once you finish your art, it’s automatically copyrighted. The only reason an artist would need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office is if they want to be able to take legal action against infringers in court.

My heart goes out to digital artists because this is the primary style that AI is replicating. I dabble in digital art, but I mostly draw by hand using pencil or charcoal. From my perspective, it feels like digital artists are on the front lines combatting the ethics (or lack thereof) of AI while the artists still using hand-drawn methods watch from the sidelines with bated breath, waiting to see how the battle unfolds.

At the moment, I don’t personally feel the AI threat around my throat because my particular style of art is not in demand. Yet.

I think this is going to boil down to two types of consumers — the ones who have a true appreciation for art and respect the time, skills, practice, and training that real artists have vs. the ones who care more about being able to obtain cheap, mass-produced art.

This face-off is already a familiar one. I frequently encounter it when I set up a booth at events. Some customers love my art; they’re excited to meet and support a local artist. Some don’t buy art unless it’s an original or limited-edition print, so they move on when they see that I don’t have originals for sale at events. Some compliment me but make it clear that they think my work is overpriced (even if I’m charging only $25 for a piece that took me five days to draw) and they would rather buy cheaper wall art from Amazon.

Like I said, this is the same face-off, just with different technology. There will continue to be people who treasure real art in contrast to those who want something pretty and cheap, even if it’s mass-produced and/or made by an algorithm instead of a real person.

I also think this legal battle over copyright infringement is going to come down to monetization power rather than ethics and respect for artists. It’s the sad but true state of capitalism. People in a position to create AI regulations are going to care more about the businesses that are upset about the inability to copyright and properly monetize AI art (and therefore unable to penalize other people for “stealing” that “intellectual” property). The integrity of artists likely won’t be what drives regulatory change. It’s all about the money and the ways intellectual property can be claimed, monetized, and enforced.

On a slightly more positive note, I’m pleased to see that many conventions have updated their vendor rules and outright banned AI art. I haven’t seen that firm stance as much with smaller festivals and markets, but hopefully, event coordinators will start to recognize the issue of AI and amend their requirements to ensure they’re protecting real artists and maintaining the integrity of their vendors.

I really don’t know what the future holds for artists fighting against AI. Being a full-time artist is already an incredible challenge. Way too many people say they appreciate art but grossly underestimate the level of time, dedication, talent, patience, and practice artists have to endure to hone their skills. Artists are frequently underappreciated and undervalued. People want artists’ skills but don’t want to pay for them… and that’s a prime opportunity for AI to undercut artists.

Digital art is on front line of that battle. I don’t know if my style of hand-drawn art will be next, but I’m uneasy about the direction AI is heading in the art space.

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Photographer’s Perspective

As far as my business goes, photography has taken a backseat. My primary focus continues to be on my sci-fi fantasy book series. When I started branching out with my inventory and display, I added prints of my artwork and photography on various products at events, but I quickly noticed that there was a much higher demand for the art than the photography, so I scaled back on the photos in favor of the art instead.

Once again, I think the debate about AI and photography is really just the latest rendition of a fight that’s been raging for quite a while when digital editing tools like Photoshop came onto the scene. AI is just stepping it up to a new level.

Where should the line be drawn? Does a photograph need to be “pure” and unedited? What about adjusting the exposure or contrast levels? Or manually manipulating elements, such as removing an unsightly telephone pole or a distracting shadow? Or making artistic edits like leaving one spot of color in an otherwise black-and-white photo? Are edits okay if a human makes them manually using digital tools?

I don’t know the answer here. We already live in a world where it’s hard to tell if images are fake. AI is blurring that line even more, but this isn’t a new conversation.

Photographers are facing similar intellectual property challenges as artists. AI developers used their copyrighted work without seeking permission or offering compensation. Obviously, people will still need photographers for special events like senior portraits, family photos, and weddings… but what will happen to the more artistic side of photography?

I only recently started offering my photography as stock images available for licensing through Shutterstock. I can’t help but think, Too late. You missed that window of opportunity. People aren’t going to need stock images now that they can create what they need with AI.

The big factor here again falls back on copyright issues. AI imagery cannot be copyrighted. Companies don’t like not being able to own the images they use to represent their brand. So, with that in mind, it’s possible that stock imagery licensing isn’t dead (yet). But until lawmakers catch up with technology and hammer out regulations, the future of art, photography, and writing is uncertain… and it’s making a lot of people, including me, very nervous on multiple fronts. AI was supposed to make life easier so humans could spend more time making art. Instead, it’s taking away opportunities for writers and artists. We seem to be speeding ahead on the wrong track.

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤