23rd June, 2022
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What To Do When You Fail to Predict the Future: My BCM325 Digital Artifact

What To Do When You Fail to Predict the Future: My BCM325 Digital Artifact

At the beginning of this semester, I set out to develop my creative writing skills through my BCM325: Future Cultures digital artifact. I challenged myself to write a series made up of three short stories – each speculating on what I think life might be like in 5, 15, and 50 years. Things didn’t go to plan – as prospective futures often tend to do, and so I learned about myself and my idea of my future in an unexpected way. Below is a detailing of what I’ve learned from completing this semester’s BCM325 digital artifact.

The Original Plan:

Each story was to be around 500 words and draw on subject materials, outside research, my own personal experiences, and ideas from my favourite literature. This process was to encourage me to develop creative writing skills. And aid in a goal-setting process, both to assist any writing work I might do in my future career.

The idea was closely linked with the “imagination” lecture, in which it’s stated that “history cannot be imagined without a concept of the past having a future”. This idea reminded me of ideas around cyclical story structures and treatment of truth and past in dystopian fiction that I’ve read. 

“We have no other resource than the imagination, and forms of practice that arise out of the imaginary backdrop of our existence, in order to articulate the future as a time-space that may work according to different rules than  those that the present adheres to”

Birgit Spengler 2019

The idea’s presented in Tim O’Brien’s short story anthology “The Things They Carried” had a huge impact on the way I view the role of truth in fiction and memory in depictions of the future. It helped me to understand how my real-life experiences contribute to creating fictional stories which may not be true in a literal sense but represent condensed ideas of what may be true in a more poignant way than non-fiction can.

“Fiction is a lie that is told in service of truth”

Tim O’Brien

“I’m not nearly as crippled by my perfectionism now as I was at 17. So, I’ve decided to revisit creative writing regardless of our feud. I believe that challenging myself through creative writing this semester will be an excellent opportunity to self-reflect, give life to my imagination, and have a bit of fun trying something new.”

Me (an optimist) – at the start of the semester – in my pitch
What I did, What I Didn’t do & How I Did/Didn’t Do It:

My original plan for the semester was well planned and achievable. I was to release a story every second week and spend my off-week researching and refining based on peer feedback.

My Original Plan

However, things did not go according to plan. They went more like this.

How it went

Despite not getting through my original plan, I did write the first story regarding 5 years into the future, and through doing that, I learned a handful of things and partially fulfilled my original intention for the project. I did, in fact, try something new, and I think it did help me to emerge from the creative rut I was in at the beginning of the semester. So I’ve completed some non-fiction pieces this semester that I believe will support my future writing endeavours.

Attempting this project challenged me to think critically about my future and observe reluctance to think about the possible future state of the world. During one of the screenings, “Don’t Look Up”, I observed that people are often reluctant to accept possible and probable futures that might be unfavourable. This was all valuable information that helped me self-reflect because, amongst other setbacks, I believe I felt this reluctance toward writing stories speculating on a future that might not be positive. Ultimately, I learned more from failure this semester than I did from success.

Researching Fiction:

A lot of the research I engaged in prior to writing my first story were pieces recommended to me in pitch feedback comments. Whilst some of these sources were in some way helpful in terms of giving me inspiration – a lot of them didn’t seem relevant to my goal or style.

I found Erin’s book recommendation here quite helpful in terms of thinking about possible versions of my future. As indicated by the title, this book includes questions for young adults to ask themselves when thinking about their future. Some of the questions, such as:

  • Where’s the future of work headed and what does having a successful career look like today?
  • How do I make a choice when I don’t know what to choose?

did spark ideas for my stories, whereas a lot of other sources recommended to me spoke about dystopic fiction in a broader and less helpful way. Although I may have found these sources more relevant had I continued to write my piece set 50 years in the future.

This comment from my peer feedback urged me to revisit the week 1 lecture, as it is focused on imagined futures. This is a recommendation that I’ve continually fallen back on when feeling lost for ideas or grounding – so it was definitely feedback that I used.

The book recommended by Phoebe here was helpful in a strange way – it reinforces pretty basic structural and grammatical rules when writing fiction – but it also inspired me to play around a bit with those things. During my story, I wanted to include some forms of multi-media where I could. I included some visual aspects, keeping the wonder of picture books in mind and thinking about the future of online fiction media. I wanted to also include a doorbell sound instead of writing something like “ding-dong” but I had technical difficulties that meant I had to let that idea go.

Unexpectedly, not only did I find that fiction writing influenced my usual blog writing, but the opposite is also true. I was eager to write my short story in a way that includes multimedia elements since that’s what I do in lots of my non-fiction blog posts. That’s definitely an idea that I’d love to explore going forward because it’s not something that I’ve seen a lot of online.

Researching Failure:

With the energy that I did have, sporadically, between bouts of illness and the rollercoaster that is motivation through the ADHD lens – I did write a few pieces which focus on some level on the future. They weren’t the pieces that I set out to write, in that they aren’t fiction, but they did stem from the same ideas as my fiction pieces would have.

Namely, I wrote a piece titled “What happens to your parents when you’re all grown up?” – an idea that stemmed from real life experiences and a question in the book that Pheobe recommended. I also wrote a piece exploring the possible impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and another that focused on shifting perspective on your life – all ideas that in some way involved the same ideas and skills I originally intended to put to use. I received positive feedback on some of these pieces, however, would have likely received more helpful feedback had I written what I intended to write and sought constructive criticism.

Other subjects throughout my BCM degree have taught me to re-evaluate my emotional and practical relationship with failure. The “fail early, fail often” mindset has consistently assisted me in assessing my perceived failures in a productive and beneficial way. Business Scholars Philip Coelho and James McClue write that “we have to have a more nuanced view of failure rather than simply existence or non-existence.”. Re-thinking my approach to this DA and its ultimate impact was the most important learning point for me this semester. I experienced a wall of self-doubt and reluctance toward my original intention, and the emotions I felt surrounding that perceived failure only reinforced that reluctance.

“Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organizations, and cultures. Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame. That is why so few organizations have shifted to a culture of psychological safety in which the rewards of learning from failure can be fully realized.”

Amy C. Edmonson, ‘Strategies for Learning from Failure’, 2011
The Takeaway:

This digital artifact was. on paper, potentially my least successful project yet. I didn’t achieve what I set out to do in the way that I intended to do it. I might have learned more about myself and how to adequately plan for the future through this experience, but I missed out on developing my creative writing skills to the standard I was aiming for. What I learned is that I sometimes put too much on my plate and that while I cannot always predict the future, I can take the knowledge I have from the past and use it to prepare for probable issues arising (i.e. ADHD related lack of motivation, catching covid). So whatever happens in 5, 25, or 50 years, I might be better prepared for it having learned this.

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