The Creative Process - AI and the Internal Dialogue



As a visual art AI virgin observing the ease and the immediacy of generative AI platforms such as ChatGBT, Midjourney or Open AI’s Dall-E competing with one another to astound users and audiences with breathtaking creative options at top speed, I feel it is necessary to return to customary concepts about the creative process; to question that which could be lost when majestic revelations are scraped from the bowels of the internet to embellish artwork conceived by AI prompts.


I have to wonder if generative AI will begin to consign our forms of expression through a lens that primarily focuses on the need to achieve an endgame creative outcome: a culminating climax with a tidy synopsis that wraps up the content, concepts and the emotional integrity of the work into one seamless ball of wonder through prompt finales. Are elements of creative play, creative experimentation, hard fought time to consider internal dialogues and the hard to find studio spaces needed for mistakes and accidental techniques a forgone conclusion? Will the highest highs, the lowest lows and the sometimes-schizophrenic sexual energy that the creative process yields be flattened? Will the “mess” of artistic failures be discarded or better yet, traded for hours-long prompt chatter with artificial bots on digital devices? 

This is not to say that the use of AI and its bewildering prompt results are not creative in their own right. They most certainly are. But as individual artists, should we be asking whether or not it is ours to take? Not simply for the fact that AI offers the sum total of all knowledge including thousands of images “captured” from other artists, but also for the fact that the resulting imaging process could eliminate many of the stages of the creative process as we know it. 

For instance, in the 2023 Sage Journal Benefits of Creative Internal Dialogue study by Alwin de Rooij, the author provides insight into the “relationship between the internal dialogue, activity, creative potential and achievement”. The study focuses on internal dialogues between an individual’s inner voices; exploring how individual differences in internal dialogue activity correlates with creative potential and creative achievement. The author suggests that the character of inner voices and the types of exchanges that these voices provide, “characterize how people (most definitely artists) make sense of, and act within, their inner and outer environment.” (Oles & Puchalska-Wasyl, 2010) In other words, from an artist’s perspective, our creative inner dialogue - our inner voices - help us navigate the surrounding world in all its glory, failures and challenges.  

I am not referencing the de Rooij study to indicate that there isn’t an internal dialogue with AI prompts, however when artists start recognizing that the miraculous amount of time it takes to achieve transformative creative outcomes is more efficient and affective, will aspects of the creative process such as our internal dialogues become a casualty in this war against time? Could we be missing a crucial component of the creative process that helps us better understand the surrounding world and ourselves?

One of the main conclusions of De Rooij’s Benefits of Creative Internal Dialogue study is as follows:

“If we assume that creative achievement requires frequent engagement in the creative process, and engagement in the creative process commonly involves internal dialogue, then we can conjecture that without a doubt, creative achievement correlates with internal dialogical activity”.  If we are now witnessing that the artists’ creative process no longer requires an engaged internal dialogue with oneself, but rather through the infinite knowledge of humanity, we have to ask ourselves how AI could change not only the artistic process but also our creative life process that relies heavily on how we implement the mediums with which we choose to work.  

Will our internal dialogues evolve to a simplified breakneck speed and how will that affect our overall quality of life process? For longer more complicated AI pieces, will the discourse be an internal dialogue with oneself or the AI platform? Will our artistic output be super-charged with an enviable amount of time saved by the AI process and thus, might we start asking why we have chosen this path of least resistance? Are artists involved in their process for the sake of expressing their themes, concepts, and techniques in a timely manner, no matter the cost? What aspects of the creative process will we leave behind through the generative AI dialogue?

The technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that most of us may not be prepared to consider the overwhelming, remarkable changes that are spiraling towards us. We may not want to admit that the sacrifices we make through an all-consuming AI process will inevitably have an effect on our overall creative life process.

As a concluding reflection, my two brothers and I recently lost our mother to dementia. Through the grieving process, the amount of time to prepare for the service/Celebration of Life was limited. We each wanted a chance to reflect on the brilliance of our mother and it was at this time that I realized that for many, the eulogy is the one opportunity to share the love and internal feelings that may not have been expressed during the life process. My youngest brother, Chris, who uses AI platforms for his digital imaging was wondering if generative AI could somehow offer words of sincere reflection through an eulogy prompt. My cousin entered an eight-word prompt into Chat GBT on her iphone that simply stated “eulogy for a mother who had three sons”. The AI platform would have little information about my eighty-one year old mother, as there was little to extract from the Internet, including social media platforms.

ChatGBT scraped the underbelly of the world for the greatest tributes ever written to sum up her beloved life up in ten long paragraphs as if it (the platform) was her closest friend or dearest relative. And yes, there are ghostwriters for eulogies, but I imagine they are given a bit more information and have more than mere seconds to deliver heartfelt phrases.  And, even though AI provided a more than adequate response, neither my brothers nor myself used the earnest conveyor belt of sentiment to generalize our mother. If we had taken the AI route, we most certainly would have missed the one opportunity to personally reflect on the radiance of her life; we would have missed a dedicated time to share human imperfections, fragilities and treasured vulnerabilities of the human condition that are encouraged through the grieving process.