Ahoy and happy Monday!
I'll be honest: when I first started using ChatGPT, I thought it was overhyped. After two weeks of trying (and failing) to use it effectively, I was ready to give up. However, hundreds of hours of tinkering later, I finally cracked the code, turning it into my personal writing assistant.
Becoming a better prompt writer and learning to approach ChatGPT as an intern, not a thinker.
In this blog post, I'll share my journey and the strategies I used to unlock ChatGPT's true potential, transforming it into a powerful tool that assists me in various writing tasks.
Let’s dive in!
The Crucial Mistake: Treating ChatGPT As A Thinker
When I first started using ChatGPT, I made one crucial mistake: I expected it to think rather than do.
I fed it poorly written, one-sentence prompts and expected some magical output. Unfortunately, poor instructions led to poor results. To turn things around, I had to reframe my perspective.
I started treating ChatGPT as my personal intern.
I knew that if I trained it correctly, I could arm myself with the world's most skilled intern. The problem was that I had been training it all wrong and blamed my intern for being incompetent.
Here's what I learned about what to avoid:
ChatGPT is horrible at coming up with things "from scratch."
When given vague prompts, it has to make too many arbitrary decisions, leading to poor output. To improve, I began to give three clear constraints in every prompt:
- A specific objective (with input)
- A specific format for the output
- A specific list of things to avoid
Prompt writing is an iterative game—you won't get it right on the first try. But like training an employee, the upfront time investment is worth it. Once you have a working, reliable prompt, you can use it forever.
How To Use ChatGPT For Different Writing Tasks
With my new approach, I started using ChatGPT for three types of tasks:
- Executing templates (that I create)
- Enhancing something already written
- Synthesizing unstructured notes into a desired output
Notice that none of these tasks require "thinking" on the part of ChatGPT—just executing.
Let's dive into some examples for each of these tasks.
Example #1: Idea Generation
I created a ChatGPT prompt template for idea generation. After investing time in training, I can now write and learn about anything. All I have to do is feed it a topic I want to explore. It then generates two lists:
- A list of "actions" related to the topic, constrained by starting with a verb.
- A list of subtopics, from which it asks three questions about each subtopic.
These questions become content topics, making writing incredibly easy. I simply answer the questions, creating "pillar" pieces of content that can later be repurposed into short-form content.
Here's an example with the topic of "Building a writing habit"
And the sub-topics:
For the prompt and a tutorial of how I’m using this, check out this 6 minute loom video.
Example #2: Rewriting And Remixing
I use ChatGPT to rewrite my writing in various ways to enhance my own voice:
- Rewrite with different tones (formal, serious, sarcastic, optimistic, pessimistic, lighthearted)
- Rewrite as if written by different authors (Gary Vaynerchuk, Maya Angelou, George R.R. Martin)
- Rewrite with different goals (concise, emphatic, humorous,descriptive, persuasive, informative, action-oriented)
- Rewrite for different demographics (3rd graders, 8th graders, college students, busy moms, seniors, non-native English speakers)
You can even ask ChatGPT to put the results in a table so you can see the differences side-by-side. Then choose your favorite.
By exploring these different angles, I can pick and choose elements that work best to enhance my own writing. The best part is that this process happens in seconds, which would be impossible to do otherwise.
Example #3: Journaling
ChatGPT can help with journal prompts or even elaborate on your thoughts and experiences.
To try this out: write a journal entry in a Google Doc or a Notion doc. Then copy / paste your text into ChatGPT and explore your journal entry with one of these four prompts:
- Analyze my journal entry for common themes and topics.
- Help me understand my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
- Provide another writing prompt to help me for deeper reflection.
- Offer inspirational quotes, poems, or stories related to inspire me.
The result? A more enriching and insightful journaling experience that enhances self-reflection and personal growth.
Example #4: Headline Iteration
Generate multiple headlines for your content and choose the one that stands out.
ChatGPT is amazing at writing irresistible headlines—once you train it correctly on the 5 fundamental pieces of a headline:
- HOW MANY (a number): 6 tips, 7 reasons, 11 mistakes, etc.
- THE WHO (an audience): for project managers, for therapists, for founders, etc.
- THE WHAT (a noun): tips, reasons, mistakes, lessons, examples, templates, case studies, etc.
- THE WHY (a reason/outcome): to get promoted, to not lose your job, to buy your first house, etc.
- “TWIST THE KNIFE” (2-3 additional benefits/outcomes): to attract your first 5 high-ticket clients and move into your dream office.
And don’t just ask ChatGPT for 1 output: ask it for 20. Then mix and match the outputs to your liking.
Example #5: Brain Dump Synthesizing
Transform your unstructured ideas and notes into coherent, well-organized content.
This is perfect for post-consumption activity. For example, if you just listened to a podcast and you have a page full of half-baked thoughts or words that captured your attention. Drop them into a chat session and ask ChatGPT to organize it into themes or main ideas for you.
You will immediately have a well-organized list that you can then take and re-purpose for tweets, threads, Atomic Essays, or reference material for future use.
Example #6: Research And Summarization
Use ChatGPT to assist with gathering information and summarizing key points.
Ask your intern to research a topic and find:
- Historical Events
For instance, you could dive into the habits of the most successful non-fiction authors. Ask ChatGPT to compare the routines of the top five best-selling non-fiction authors over the last decade and provide an explanation of what sets them apart from their peers and summarize it in 200 words or less.
The more valuable the thinking, the more valuable the result.
And the more you work with ChatGPT and refine your prompts, the more valuable it becomes as a writing assistant.
My journey with ChatGPT has been transformative.
By reframing my approach, iterating on prompts, and learning to use it as a "doer" rather than a "thinker," I've turned it into my personal writing intern. ChatGPT now plays a significant role in idea generation, rewriting and remixing, and various other writing tasks.
If you've been struggling to make the most of ChatGPT, I hope my experience and strategies inspire you to give it another shot. With patience, persistence, and the right approach, you too can unlock the true potential of this powerful AI writing assistant.
Chat next week!
–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole
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