Artificial Inspiration: How to Use AI to Augment Your Writing Process

In today’s world resounding with cacophonous noise and overflowing with excess, the sheer volume of stuff that already exists in the world can be overwhelming and demotivating to creators – what could anyone possibly say, make, or do that hasn’t already been done a thousand times before? More has been created as of now than ever before, and this can make it incredibly difficult for modern writers to find their own voice and set themselves apart from the crowd. However, necessity being the mother of invention, modern problems give rise to modern solutions, and we can turn to new sources of inspiration to stay innovative. 

When we talk about the future of technology, especially in the context of the publishing industry, the conversation is often apprehensive in tone and pivots towards the idea of newer technologies replacing older ones, or even human workers; think of eBooks’ alleged murder of the traditional bookshop. But for all the problems technological changes can pose, there is also a lot to be excited by, as technology can foster human ingenuity as much as obsolescence.

AI image-merging in action; none of these faces exist in real life.

I have recently taken to finding inspiration from artificial intelligence, the subject of one of the most rapidly evolving fields of research today. There is an ongoing explosion of creative AI projects being made available to the public; you may have encountered websites like This Person Does Not Exist, which presents you with a unique AI generated image of a human each time you load the page, or Google’s array of AI experiments. When it comes to writing, some AI programs even specialise in generating text themselves – often with hilarious outputs – such as Botnik’s Voicebox and AI Dungeon, but convincing AI ghostwriters are still a long way off. A quick Google search will reveal an intimidatingly vast quantity of various AI tools – some wacky, some practical, and a few potentially revolutionary hidden gems.

My favourite among them, Artbreeder is a free web application that allows you to create completely original images in seconds using artificial intelligence – high-resolution pictures of animals, human portraits, landscapes, building designs, abstract art, and more. Its standout gimmick is that it allows you to combine (or ‘breed’ – hence the name) multiple pictures together, merging their features into one of numerous possible ‘children’. This feature, in conjunction with a selection of variable ‘genetic’ modifier inputs, allows you to continually iterate upon a base image until you obtain a result that meets your requirements.

But what really sets Artbreeder apart from other AI art generators is its usability; its simple, user-friendly design makes it easy to browse an archive of thousands of AI images generated by other users, each of whom can curate and customise their own profile somewhat like an Instagram page. It only takes a little fiddling about to learn how to make your own creations, and with barely any more time investment, you can even create unique animations – no technical art skills required. There is an optional paid version that includes some bonus features, higher image resolutions and the ability to keep your creations private, but these additions largely do not feel missing from the base version. 

Suffice it to say, Artbreeder is an incredibly versatile and beginner-friendly tool – but what could it possibly have to do with writing? Well, here are five great ways to use Artbreeder to support your writing:

  1. Inspiration – When you’re feeling rusty from some time away from writing, or you’re starting to feel the old writer’s block kick in, it can be a good idea to challenge yourself to write a short description of whatever strikes you to get that vocabulary flowing. Artbreeder’s AI can create an infinite number of completely unique images on demand that nobody has ever seen before, which makes them the perfect subjects for writing prompts and warm-up descriptive exercises. 
  2. Visualisation – If you love a good mood board in the planning stages of your creative projects, Artbreeder makes a great addition to your digital arsenal alongside other image-browsing sites like Pinterest and DeviantArt. When you need a visual aid to help you set the scene, or when you can’t quite settle on the look of that one slippery side character, try spending a couple of minutes with this app to craft and secure that perfect character design or landscape in your mind’s eye. 
  3. Collaboration – With thousands of users sharing their creations online, Artbreeder is essentially a niche social media platform for people realising their creative visions. What’s more, the site allows users to connect their Twitter accounts, and it has an active community in its Discord and Facebook groups, allowing you to connect and collaborate with other creatives more easily. 
  4. Commissioning – No matter how beautifully detailed our descriptions maybe, sometimes words just aren’t enough to convey exactly what we’re picturing to someone else. Being able to create your own prototypes and concept art can help enormously to supplement your written descriptions, and Artbreeder images make excellent references for use by commissioned art professionals for things like book covers or promo material without being too skill-intensive. 
  5. Publishing – As much as I advocate supporting paid artists and their work, you might find that your AI creations have already fulfilled all your graphics needs and choose to forgo commissioning altogether, since Artbreeder images can be published as they come without posing any copyright issues. The Artbreeder FAQ states:

‘All images are public domain (CC0) and may be used for commercial purposes. It is strongly suggested that you cite the Artbreeder image URL when sharing something that strongly resembles an Artbreeder image.’ 

(Although, remember to always read the fine print for yourself, just to be safe!)Variations of the same AI image, each with its own distinct art style and feel..

So whether you’re looking for intricate character designs, stunning landscapes, or something a little more surreal, Artbreeder makes for the ideal playground for experimentation, and as AI continues to be developed further, it is sure to be a really exciting space to keep an eye on going forward.

Want to know more about AI generated art? See this blog post to find loads more creative AI tools.

Post written by Dominic Pattison.

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