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Write On! Features: ChatGPT Part 2 – Art, Literacy & The Singular Literary Genius by E.M. Blake

by E.M. Blake

(This is part two of a three-part series. Read part one here.)

Dr Omar Kholeif says, “Most of the time when I use ChatGPT, I am with people, who use it as a kind of party trick. I’ve noticed it happens with individuals who don’t have an interest in technology. Let’s write your exhibition summary, someone might say to me. You don’t have to worry about work now, come and drink with us. They pull it out and use it that way. There is a novelty aspect about it.”

In this second of a three-part feature on ChatGPT, I speak to the Egyptian-born curator of exhibitions across six continents, whose work includes commissioning award-winning art, authoring, co-authoring, or editing 41 books, with a career spanning from documentaries on socio-economic change in Scotland in the early 2000s to the 2023 book, Internet_Art. Dr Kholeif says, “I often refer to myself as a digital centrist, which means I’m really aspirational in terms of what technology can do for people in the creative field, but am also wary that digital literacy is imperative.”

© Dr Omar Kholeif

ChatGPT: Helping Creatives?

Dr Kholeif reveals, “I’m more open to ChatGPT for editing out certain things that aren’t useful to the narrative, flow or drive in an interview such as this or a podcast, as opposed to using it in my prose. I treat my prose like a painterly process. I’m constructing sentences to work like you would the details in a painting. It’s akin to choosing the canvas’s material, the choice of colour, tempo, texture and subtext.”

© Dr Omar Kholeif

Actually, Dr Kholeif is the only person I know who has read novels written using ChatGPT.

“I don’t find the kind of lyrical prose that speaks to the interiority of self. It’s too contrived when people are using ChatGPT to write; there is a hyper awareness, for now, anyway.”

When I had writer’s block, I used ChatGPT for an Instagram post. It stimulated my creative juices, which flowed through the extensive rewrites. I feel the post lacks authenticity and haven’t resorted to it again for captions. I’ve grappled with why Dr Kholeif’s term, “hyper awareness,” remains in my consciousness, as if it were an ink stain.

© Instagram page of E.M.Blake (Instagram: @mycreativeeveryday)

I reflect on my first two interviewees. Catherine asks ChatGPT to provide her with 30 hashtags for Instagram. Imo fell into AI via a copyright job advertisement.

Imo knows people using ChatGPT at a sentence level when struggling to describe a scene, or generating descriptions for an eBay item or YouTube video.

Catherine remarks on writers turning to ChatGPT for world building, “You word vomit into the bot and it feeds something back.” She muses, “Unless your job has something to do with writing or you’re a writer, do you write that much? If you vaguely throw ideas at ChatGPT, does it become like maths, you only need the basics and you never use it?”

Will writing morph into a craft, in the realm of painting, weaving and other relics in our time-obsessed culture?

© Painting Sam, The Painted Cat Art (Instagram: @paintedcat) Watch the video here.

Technological Literacy And The Generational Divide

Dr Kholeif says, “I’m a millennial who wasn’t taught technology in school in Saudi Arabia. Everything I have learned is through an auto-didact’s worldview. I taught myself how to make my first html websites. It was very difficult and time-consuming. Young people who go to school now have a literacy that is encouraged.”

Dr Kholeif admitted to, “Constantly feeling like I have to keep up and others feel the same way, too.” Which reminded me that Catherine felt, “If you lined people up by age in my cohort, the older students are more open and interested in ChatGPT.” Is this about feeling the need to keep up?

In my first graduate position, I worked on a user acceptance testing software project. In London, my job included data on marketing software which targeted customers. Despite this, technology dangled in the tiger’s jaws.

Whenever I spoke about writing to anyone, they championed social media. One spring morning, as the daffodils waved, I embraced Instagram and photography. It has helped me grow as a writer. From TikTok, to YouTube, and now ChatGPT, I have an attitude to technology my old self would struggle to comprehend.

© Serdar (Instagram: @serdar_61)

I’d pondered the initial distrust and shame with Wikipedia which, like ChatGPT, is an open source platform. Coincidentally, Dr Kholeif mentions Wikipedia, saying the difference between them is that Wikipedia is, “… led by human cultivation and process and it is much more transparent who the authors are. ChatGPT is about an engagement where the author is teaching an AI to learn that’s not necessarily made entirely visible.”

“The shame with people slandering Wikipedia in the early days was because there wasn’t necessarily a citation or reference point;  it seemed too easy. I remember grading when I was teaching undergraduates. They would cite Wikipedia and I’d say, ‘No you can’t do that, that’s not allowed, you have to go and do this properly.’ But now that has changed: they can look to the sources used in Wikipedia to substantiate their work. It’s altered the world and how we knowledge-share for the better.”

© Aryan Dhiman
Co-Authorship vs. The Singular Literary Genius

Wikipedia meandered into the fabric of our lives. AI infuses into everything too. Prolific use of AI has meant Amazon updated their content guidelines, distinguishing between AI-generated content and AI-assisted content.

AI-based tools to edit, refine, error-check, or otherwise improve content is ‘AI-assisted’ and not ‘AI-generated.’ Similarly, brainstorming and generating ideas, but creating the text yourself, is also ‘AI-assisted,’ and it isn’t necessary to inform Amazon of such tools or processes.*

These are some of my ChatGPT editing prompts:

  1. How can I improve this <insert text>.
  2. Provide suggestions as a copywriter, but do not rewrite.
  3. Check for grammar and punctuation: <insert text>
  4. What can I do to make it more unique?
  5. How do I make it clearer in the opening scene that…

ChatGPT highlights my strengths and weaknesses, writing incessantly with an intimidating level of competence. I push past the glacial fear of this new era, disregarding my reservations.

Dr Kholeif says, “Whether or not ChatGPT can write as well as I would like it to, is another thing entirely. This is not the point really, because I don’t want to stop doing that job.”

Catherine notes, “Creating a book is like a village effort. If you put AI in that mix, it taints the book in the reader’s head. Maybe because they question how much came from the author authentically.”

Imo responds, “In the end, does it matter? What if the book is good? Do I feel guilty liking the book?”

Dr Kholeif says, “I’ve co-written books where my name has been removed because a publisher wants to focus on the other name who might be more famous, or suit the part better. This is usually the case with the big five publishers. You’ve been paid and you often can’t do anything about it.”

Furthermore, “There’s not a guilt or shame in using ChatGPT. I think there’s just too much of an emphasis on the idea of the singular literary genius, as opposed to one where humans could potentially collaborate.”

I allude to Eliot and Pound’s Wasteland. Dr Kholeif says, “We live in a world where the spirit of collaboration, co-authorship and community are less evident in literature. A book, like a film, is not a singular project. The idea may emerge from one person but, to bring it out into the world is a collaborative endeavour. Even Virginia Woolf, who co-owned Hogarth Press. Well, there was Leonard. There is always someone.”

Dr Kholeif concludes, “And there is your public. They are part of that process, as well as in shaping the life of that work in the public domain.”

© The Bookshop In Hereford, E.M.Blake (Instagram: @mycreativeeveryday

This touches me, like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”– such a scrumptious word! Creating content on social media concentrates my attention towards the audience and motivates me to improve the quality. Photographs and videos complement written words, adding to the experience. This is what being a modern writer means for me. I began to reflect more about the future of writing and AI, which I investigate in the final feature. It includes an interview with Dr Blay Whitby, who has written about AI since the 1980s.

(c) Ellie Blake, 2024


Ellie M. Blake is a regular contributor to Write On! and the author of the children’s picture books Dilly Dally Sally and This Silly Bench.

Website: Connect: Instagram, TikTok, YouTube & X

The Interviewees

Catherine Sheffield and Imo Scrimger are completing their second year of an MFA at City University.

Dr Omar Kholeif’s latest book, Internet_Art: From The Birth Of The Web To The Rise Of NFTs is published by Phaidon. Connect:  Instagram & LinkedIn


* Content Guidelines at (19/02/24)


You can read Write On! issue 20 online here and find it in libraries and other outlets. Previous editions of our magazines can be found here.

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Creating content on social media concentrates my attention towards the audience, motivating me to improve the quality.