A Garden of Words
by Ashlyn McKayla Ohm
Was the news scary, you ask? Well, of course it was, and how could it not be? I am a grower of ideas, after all. Long before I had heard of publishing models and three-act structure, long before I could know that books were written instead of gathered from some garden at the end of the world, I was already living those ideas, verdant vines tying themselves around the corners of my life. And that is what I have done, all my life, even now—nurtured the seeds of stories in my soul, waiting for each one to catch the light and sprout words like leaves.
So yes, when they came with their tongue-tangled tales of this magic machine—this technological alchemy they called ChatGPT—yes, the wind felt strange. Where my heart had been a garden of ideas—a garden requiring the purest kind of patience as I waited on the words—here was a factory, ready to mass-produce words and reap by wizardry all my staple crops: essays, poetry, stories. Fertilize it with a few fragmented notions, they told me, and the hurried harvest would burst forth.
So now, I walk these spring evenings, out on the country roads where the awakening hills arch their backs and the wind carries the deep delight of growing and the broken-down asphalt has made friends with the grass. And I wonder: Who will have time now for the organic words, the ones grown green with grace? Who will still value the work of the idea-farmer, the heart kept wide with wonder, the hands gently working the soil of the soul? If artificial words can be mixed in a minute, who will wait for the seeds in my spirit to sprout soft and slow?
But perhaps they will.
Because perhaps, in the end, the prefabricated products of any chatbot aren’t truly the gift that the world needs. Perhaps it’s time for you, and me, and all of us to discover the truth that just might save us from the mad welter of mass-produced words: The short-term gratification of getting the words doesn’t outweigh the long-term sanctification of growing the words.
Yes, I am a grower of ideas, and this I know: I am changed by my words. As each infant idea unfolds in the underground of my heart, I feel its roots stretching through soil that might otherwise grow hard with hurt. As the idea takes form and stretches shoots into day, I too look to the light that has drawn it out of the darkness. As the words burst from bud, each one bursts something in me. And so as my ideas—my words—my stories grow in me, I grow in them as well.
You see, at the end of the long process, I bring a gift to the world: The pretty paperback that I harvest from my heart, my words finally ripe and ready to offer themselves to every pair of hands that hold my stories close. But as for me, I find the healing of my heart in the wrestling with the words. The nurturing of the idea all through the winters when my faith has turned to frost. The surrender to the sun in which my stories stand. The wrangling with every word, the call of the grower to grapple with grit and grace, to reach into the darkest underground and hold forth hope. It is there where my words change me, not in the polished product, but in the unwritten corners of my own story—where my words bow in worship to The Word, and all can be rewritten.
I am still walking this evening. The frogs are singing in the marshes, shrill and strong—serenading the green grass, unafraid that any computerized contraption will steal their singular song. And I smile, and I feel it—the mystery that cannot be mechanized—the faith-flicker of the words within.
A passionate follower of Jesus Christ, Ashlyn McKayla Ohm finds her writing calling where her heart for God and her love for His creation intersect. Born and raised in rural Arkansas on the shoulders of the Ouachita Mountains, she’s most at home where the streetlights die and the pavement ends. She finds joy in weaving words into messages of hope and healing and is forever grateful that God has given her the gift of not only exploring His beautiful world but also using her words to prayerfully draw others to Him. Follow her adventures on her blog, Words from the Wilderness, or on Instagram and Facebook.