30 Aug

There's a little prompt on my interface, it says, "Enter your content here." Which reminds me of an encounter I had with someone in the first week or two of the WGA strike (Day 121 in the house!). 

I was crossing the street to visit a cafe in Burbank, where they kindly let the picketers use their bathrooms, when a person walking their dog made a comment to me. They said something to the effect of, "Hey, so that AI stuff is really scary, huh?"

This stymied me a bit. Neither my homemade strike shirt or my picket sign said anything about AI. Still, it's one of the big issues in the strike, and I assumed they had it on their mind. I made a weak joke about how, yeah, AI was scary and their dog was probably using it to overthrow the world. 

I'm not good chatting with strangers and I really just wanted to go pee. 

But they seemed to want to pursue the thought, whatever the thought was. They, and their dog, walked along with me and continued to say a few things about AI. Things like, "It's really all about how you use it." Which I didn't disagree with because I don't disagree with that statement. 

The conversation, such as it was, was less than a minute old and I was already in the nodding and grunting stage, hoping to disengage before I entered the cafe.

Also, to be clear, the dog didn't have anything to say, it was just along for the ride.

As I arrived at the cafe and began to peel off, obviously going my own way as they went theirs, the dog walker offered this in farewell, "I used to be a writer. Now I create content. And I do it with AI."

I think I said, "Cool, cool, that's great." or something similarly supportive, delivered in a genuine and not at all sarcastic tone.

Then I went inside to pee.

It was only later that I reflected on how odd the exchange had really been. Only later that it occurred to me that this persons parting words had been the point of engaging with me in the first place. This is what they wanted to say to the writers picketing in their neighborhood. They wanted to say, "I used to be a writer. Now I create content. And I do it with AI." Or, in more succinct phrasing, "Fuck you."

I suspect this person felt personally under attack by all the anti-AI language surrounding the strike, and they had been brooding and looking for an opportunity to zing a writer.

I could be wrong about that. They might have just wanted to chat. But even so... "I used to be a writer. Now I create content."


On the one hand, I've never cared for the way various forms of art, craft, reportage, and whatever else, have come to be thrown into a single bucket called content. But I was still sickeningly fascinated by the fact that this person seemed to be drawing a hard line between writing and creating content.

I find myself wishing that we could cross paths again so I could ask some questions. What kind of writing had they done before turning to content creation? What kind of content do they create? What role does AI play? And were you quietly pissed off on that morning and looking for someone you could dig at or is that idea just content I've created for my own self?

I haven't kept track of the numbers, but my rough guess is that I've picketed 250-300 miles. Some of that time, the best of it, has been filled with conversations with new and old friends. The best conversations are about life stuff. The most boring are about the biz. I've also listened to some podcasts, and a lot of music. When the picket line has been thin I've been able to sometimes sing without bothering anyone. Some of my time on the line in quiet and internal. That can be soothing or cause borderline panic. 

I like a lot of things about being on strike. I like that it's the right thing to do. I like that the members of my union are fighting to take control of our profession and make it more secure for the next generation of writers. I like the palpable feeling of camaraderie and high morale even as we are about to enter our fifth month. I like being a part of the tradition of the labor moment. I like the feeling that we are setting an example to people of what can be accomplished when they organize. I like the feeling that we are winning. 

I'm Charlie Huston, WGAW member since 2009. This is my content for today. Yours in solidarity.