Fourth Day

Has Generative AI made writer’s block a thing of the past?

M y colleague Cindy recently wrote about the “page blanche” and how to get beyond writer’s block in PR.

We all agreed that the syndrome still poses a problem and various colleagues offered their tips addressing it. Then, at a breakfast meeting last week, our friend Chris Clarke from Fire on the Hill commented how ridiculously easy it is to get beyond the blank page now that we have generative AI at our fingertips. Chris uses to gather his own notes on a particular topic and to turn them into the first draft of a document. 

As someone who’s not really found AI hugely helpful with writing so far, I thought I should consult others in this industry about its ability to jump start an article – and whether we should all be using it more. 


Before I go any further, I should underline that everyone who expressed an opinion underlined that AI by no means produces a finished article. Whatever it comes up with requires significant editing, fact checking, and adding to. Its language is often predictable and its arguments basic. And all of its content is taken from others’ work. However, this last point is also true of “desk research” and as long as we acknowledge our sources I don’t see this as a problem. 

Having said all that, the overall conclusion seems to be that it can be very handy.

Let the computer take the first step

Our own head of content, Paul Maher, thinks that AI can be helpful as a way of researching a particular topic. 

“I use it to see what has already been said. So I guess that is a way of kick-starting a thought process. Quite often if it’s a subject I’m not that familiar with, I’ll literally ask a question like “what are the major talking points about X?” That can be pretty helpful.” 

Debby Penton from Wildfire sees it as helpful for finding additional information or to check no key points have been missed. Debby also finds it helpful to provide a starting framework: 

Sometimes I might say ‘I want to write a blog about XYZ, these are the key points I want to make and this is the tone. I then get it to refine the output a few times to see if there is a structure or sentence I can use to kick me off.” 

Debby stresses that it’s not the finished article, however. “It always requires plenty of editing though and always the best posts or blogs I’ve written are the ones when it comes straight from the heart and I’ve not used AI at all.”

James Cooper of Ascendant Communications also believes that AI can help when writer’s block strikes. He says, “For even the most experienced writer this can happen, around a topic that may not be of interest, or where a starting point for an article can be difficult to find. Eventually, you can get over this, but having a draft, or suggestion, greatly eases this process; that’s where GenAI can be such a helpful tool for copywriters.”

"Always the best posts or blogs I’ve written are the ones when it comes straight from the heart and I’ve not used AI at all."
Debby Penton CEO, Wildfire PR

Pulling together the pieces

A slightly different approach to the use of AI came from Sarah Lafferty of Round Earth Consulting. Sarah said that she does sometimes use ChatGPT when stuck at different stages of a writing project, but to test ideas rather than to fill a page.  

“I’m a puzzle solver by nature and I really enjoy thinking and writing about how different ideas, trends, and in my world, technologies, are connected. Sometimes as the premise of an article, I will start with a working hypothesis based on past experiences or just a gut feeling. In these cases, I will start a ‘conversation’ with ChatGPT to first test this hypothesis, then get (and then sanity check) some proof points. This works a lot better than a simple Google search because ChatGPT is so good at synthesising, then summarising a massive body of written information so that it’s easy to digest. I then become unstuck and can build from there.”

In conclusion

In light of all my peers’ comments, I probably do need to get over my grudge against GenAI. It  doesn’t (yet?) produce very well written or well structured documents, but that’s not the point. It is very good at summarising and at finding nuggets of information. And the more we understand its benefits at this stage, the better.

Sarah also mentioned that ChatGPT can be quite helpful in proposing conclusions. But pointed out that these generally start with “in conclusion…”

The author

Xanthe is a co-founder and director of Fourth Day PR

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