I sometimes get behind in my writing for Nspire Today. We aim for around 1,800 words per article. My stories are typically 1,700-2,700 words, but the majority are around 2,300 words.

I can write longer if needed. I also find that, as I near 3,000 words, my hands start to hurt. Sometimes, I’ll push through as it means I’m close to being done with a second story, but my editor, Jeff, has repeatedly told me to only write one story a day, so I don’t risk burning out. I typically write 14-17 stories per month plus a column about mental health.

Someone asked me the other day if I could just stick my notes into ChatGPT, or another AI, and let it write my stories, so I could catch up and get back on track.

“NO,” I said. It was an emphatic response. I do my own work. I always have. If I use someone else’s work, it’s quoted and referenced. Writing is my life. I don’t cheat.

The person asking was being genuine and trying to figure out a way to help me. I was struggling with getting going with a story of which I had 3,141 words of notes.

I don’t take this many notes often because I don’t need to, and it’s overwhelming when it comes time to write. Once I got started it was easier to keep going. My story ended up being 3,011 words. The next day, as I was waiting for phone calls to be returned, I got curious.

I looked around online for AI programs designed for journalists, just to see what they are capable of. The results were laughable to me. Unless AI can get in my head, there’s no way it would ever work for me.

My notes

and we’re further from everything
first year back worked at the college and get hilarious questions like where’s the closest taco bell
we almost got her but she wouldn’t come to the interview
we own the bowling alley here growing up
thought fast food meant mcdonald’s had a cow
in college worked at a restaurant and everything in a fewwzer what is that
where do you come from the land of real food

What AI wrote

1. We are distanced from all things even more. 2. During my initial year back, I was employed at the college and encountered amusing inquiries such as the location of the nearest Taco Bell. 3. We nearly convinced her to attend the interview, but she refused to come. 4. Our family possesses the local bowling alley where I spent my childhood. 5. I used to believe that “fast food” referred to McDonald’s because of the cow logo. 6. While in college, I worked at a restaurant and encountered something called a “fewwzer” – I was puzzled by it. 7. Are you from a place where real food is the norm?

What I wrote

She has seen the effects of Chadron’s remoteness on people who might come to the town for work. Her first year back in town, she worked at the college and had some interesting questions from potential employees.
“One woman asked, ‘where’s the closest Taco Bell?’” she said. “We almost got her, but she wouldn’t even come to the interview.”
Rhoads laughs at the thought of not taking a job because of a lack of fast food. Growing up in a rural area had skewed her thinking a little bit. Her family had owned the bowling alley and she saw that all the beef and potatoes came from her grandfather’s farm. Since it was a fast food-type of establishment, she extrapolated her experience nationwide. She thought fast food meant McDonald’s had a cow.
When she went to college and worked at a restaurant, everything was stored in a large freezer. While she knew what freezers were, it was the first time she had seen one on such a large scale. She asked what it was and why they needed it.
“They asked me, ‘where do you come from?’” she said. “I said ‘the land of real food.’”

There will be times when I will wish I could just plug my notes into a program and get a good story, but it won’t be by me, it’s dishonest, and it will never have the piece of me I put into every story.

If you see a story with my byline, it was written by me. It might have been written by stressed out me, or sleep-deprived me, or hungry me, or “I don’t fucking want to write today” me, but it was written by me and I did my best to tell the story.