When writing AI prompts, act less like an engineer and more like a musician.

Writing prompts shouldn’t feel like you’re acting as a “prompt engineer”.

Honestly, I don’t much like that term.

First, I think it’s disrespectful to true engineers. Writing prompts is not engineering.

But more to the point, I think the title steers us in the wrong direction. Engineering implies a fixed process and a certain formality. A process with a guaranteed and constant outcome. “Use these top 20 prompts for optimum results.”

That approach sounds attractive, but I don’t think it’s the way to get the best outputs from an AI model like ChatGPT.

These models are not like traditional software programs. We don’t enter our instructions in code, we engage with these tools by entering into conversation.

This is why I prefer to avoid painting myself as some kind of pseudo engineer. I’m more comfortable comparing my approach to learning a musical instrument.

Let me explain…

My favorite guitarist of all time is David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.

If you’re of my generation, David Gilmour’s playing will have seeped into your soul while you were a teenager. If not, spend a little time searching on YouTube and you’ll find him playing guitar.

He is an absolute master of that instrument. His playing is incredible, the music he creates is beautiful.

In fact, he inspired me to buy my own guitar, way back when. But a few lessons and hours of practice later, the noise I created was horrible.

Did I then blame the guitar? Did I declare that guitars are incapable of creating great music?  Of course not.

But that’s what often happens when people are disappointed by the output from their chosen AI model.

They complain about the quality of writing, and jump onto social media to declare with absolute certainty that AI will never be able to write as well as humans.

They blame the instrument before putting in the hours of practice necessary to master it. Unlike David Gilmour, they fail to put in their one thousand hours, and then ten thousand more.

The best prompting is collaborative, iterative, and steeped in emotion.

I’ve written elsewhere about my collaborative approach to writing prompts. In the same post, I write about how I follow an iterative process… always using a series on prompts to achieve the outcome I’m hoping for.

And I lead with emotion.

Emotion has always been at the heart of great writing and copywriting. Sharing emotion is how we engage our audience, and hold their attention… whether we are writing on our own, or with the help of AI.

Staying with our musical analogy, think about the player piano. A player piano is a type of piano that can play music automatically without a human pianist. It uses a piano roll, which is a roll of paper with perforations that encode the music.

A player piano can play a tune with perfect accuracy. But it doesn’t compare with the playing of a human. Why? Because it has no emotion or soul. It is mechanical, with no heartbeat.

In conclusion…

Don’t be a prompt engineer and use prompts that are the same an everyone else’s.

Instead, treat prompt writing as an art form, and AI models as instruments that need to be learned through repeated practice.

Step one? Take my course, Futureproof Copywriting, in which I expand on the craft of applying a high level of emotional intelligence to writing AI-generated copy and content.

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