Keeping Your Writing Motivation High: How To Set Goals

As a psychology PhD student, my studies have taken me into the midst of many psychological theories. My particular area of study involves encouraging people to adopt certain behaviors, or do certain things. When trying maintain or increase motivation towards a specific behavior, a lot of research has suggested that goal setting can help you achieve this.

Goal setting may sound simple, and it really is once you understand its basic principles, but it can be easy to create goals that may actually become detrimental to the goals you want to achieve. Here, I will show you how to use one of the most well-established and simple methods of goal setting that you can use to set your own goals. Those of which can be applied to all aspects of life, such as staying motivated to complete your novel, adopting a new exercise routine, and learning a language (These areas are just some of those I have personally used goal setting for).

Image result for smart goals

The SMART method of goal setting has proved to be very useful to me and is extremely easy to pick up.

Specific – Goals should be specific. “I want to write fantasy” would not be a specific goal and would be difficult to know when this has been achieved. “I want to complete my novel” would be much more specific.

Measurable – The goal should have some component you can measure. Adding onto the previous analogy “I want to complete my fantasy novel”, how many words per day would that take, or how many hours per day? Using methods such as this to track progress helps to keep you motivated.

Attainable – “I want to complete a whole 80,000 word novel in a weekend” is obviously not an attainable goal. This aspect of goal setting is also very personal, and will vary person to person. “I want to write 3000 words per day” may be attainable for some, but for others, such as myself, it is not.

Relevant – Keep your goals relevant to higher goals you want to achieve. For example, “I want to write 1000 words per day” should be relevant to the higher level goal of completing your novel.

Time-based – It is easy for goals that lack a time component to be put aside and lost in a busy life. Having a point in time that you want to complete your goal helps to keep it high in your priority list.

For me, my current SMART based goals look like this:

  1. Complete the first draft of my fantasy novel by 31/10/18 by writing 1000 words per day.
  2. Study Japanese for 40 minutes five times per week in order to take and pass the JLPT 3 exam.

If you look back at the SMART principles, you will find that this covers them all.

Adding onto the SMART goal system, there are a few other points that research says make your goal setting more effective. These are:

  • Write them down and put them where you can see them – This helps to keep them at the forefront of your mind.
  • Don’t be too strict with yourself – For example, if I was to write 1000 words per day until the end of October would be much more than the word count I have planned for my novel. But it is likely that something will come up during those three months which means I am unable to write, so to ensure I stick to my goal, I have given myself some wiggle room.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts on whether you found it useful or not. Psychology is a very broad subject and if you would like to see more of it applied to writing let me know!

Review: We Ride The Storm

Rating: 9/10

Gripping from the start, We Ride The Storm is a face-paced grimdark adventure that plunges the reader into a complex world of diverse culture and politics. The opening chapters thrust the reader into the Madson’s world and it took me a few chapters to adjust to the three very different characters. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, the world building came across as effortless and never once felt like an info dump.

The novel is centered around three stories that quickly interweave into an immersive tale. The perspectives of these characters are wrote in the first person, and as a writer, I can fully appreciate how difficult this is to pull off well. Madson executes this flawlessly and the successful first person accounts give the reader a deeper understanding of the character’s thoughts that helps the reader sympathise with the character’s actions, even some of the more difficult and dark. Something I found particularly engaging was that each character has a different cultural background which effects their perceptions of the world.

Rah. A Levanti nomad and captain of a band of warriors who has been exiled from his herd for disobeying an order. Rah seeks to uphold his culture’s traditions while protecting those he leads. In the unfamiliar world he is thrust in to, upholding his own idea of honor becomes increasingly difficult. A stubborn character who I was constantly sympathizing with, as even in today’s world, it is difficult to do the right thing and often it can put the doer in undesirable circumstances.

Cassandra. A Chiltaen substance abusing whore and assassin has an unexplained second person living inside her head, whose thoughts are regularly expressed during Cassandra’s chapters. In contrast to Rah, Cassandra does not care for honour or pride and will do anything to relieve herself of the ever present voice in her head. This character quickly engaged my attention. As a psychology PhD student, I was unsure if this was a genuine second voice in her head, or if this character was suffering from a mental health condition as a product of her work as an assassin. It was soon revealed that the voice was actually a conscious being, but despite this, I think the second voice and issues with her mental health are cleverly written that kept me intrigued throughout.

Miko. A Kisian bastard princess forced into dealing with the intrigues and politics of the Imperial court. To me, Miko felt like a mixture of both Rah and Cassandra as her motivations lie in her want to lead and protect the people of her kingdom, and she will not shy away from dirtying her hands in order to achieve this. Despite this character’s sense of entitlement, I found Miko to be the more relatable of the three characters, as she was merciless towards those who deserve it, yet merciful to those who are innocent. Her story follows her struggle as she attempts to gain power and sit upon the crimson throne in order to protect her kingdom from tearing itself apart.

We Ride The Storm was one of the faster paced novels I have read this year. Towards the end of the story each chapter seems to throw more conflict and challenges at the three protagonists. Combined with the first person perspective, this often left me unsure how the character would deal with the difficulty that lay ahead. It was satisfying too when my guesses were often wrong.

We Ride The Storm is a novel that combines fast paced writing, contrasting view points, and well written characters that lead to an immersive world and very enjoyable story. I would recommend it everyone who is a fan of fantasy and particularly those who enjoy a darker tone to their fantasy reading.

Find the book on amazon

A Completely Free Masterclass From the Legend Himself – Brandon Sanderson

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind you.” – Henry Ford.

I have found that I have always enjoyed writing. From the more formal academic writing, to writing fantasy where I can let my imagination run wild. Leaving school at 15 to join the Army, I have struggled in the past to understand the “how” when it come to creative writing, and primarily wrote from my gut instinct. In order to improve my writing, I had to take to the internet to find content which could help me develop my own writing style. Last year, I came across a series of Brandon Sanderson’s videos by BYU, where you can watch as a fly on the wall all of his creative writing for fantasy and science fiction lectures. I found these extremely useful and as Sanderson himself puts, has helped me to become more of a chef and less than a cook when it come to creative writing. The course spans 12 lectures across multiple topics including plotting, dialogue, character, and his renowned take on magic systems. Below you will find a link to each of his lectures. I hope you find them as useful as I did!

#1 – Course Overview

#2 – Chefs vs. Cooks

#3 – The Illusionist Writer

#4 – World Building

#5 – The Box

#6 – The Business of Writing

#7 – Character

#8 – Magic Systems

#9 – Guest Speaker – Brandon Mull

#10 – Plotting

#11 – Dialogue and Agents

#12 – Q&A

Bes: The Dwarf God of Ancient Egypt

When we think of Ancient Egyptian gods, many images come to mind. For me, my impression of Ancient Egyptian Gods initially came from watching Yu-Gi-Oh growing up. The card “The Winged Dragon of Ra” being ingrained into my brain as I desperately sought after the card, but never managed to get my eleven year old hands on it. Ra, the sun god (seen below), is probably the most known Ancient Egyptian God. This hawk headed god almost seems like the cover star of Ancient Egypt. However, during my most recent research for my novel into Ancient Egypt, I came across a god that was much to my surprise.

Re-Horakhty.svg

Bes, the god of dwarfs, protector of households, mothers and children, is possible the most bizarre looking Ancient Egyptian god I have come across, and that is saying something considering the Goddess Nut had skin made from the night sky and is often seen stretching over her husband like the night sky, which looks slightly awkward.

geb-and-nut

The Ancient Egyptians believed that dwarfs held magical properties. Bes himself was a dwarf and considered to to bring good fortune, as he watched over the common man. Bes was also said to ward off evil and came to be symbolize all things good, such as music, dancing, and even sexual pleasure. I think he has become my new favorite Ancient Egyptian God.

besImage result for bes god

A Very Grim(dark) Start

This is an extract from my prologue for my current work in progress. Too grim?

“I drained the remaining foam from my tankard. A familiar dizzying euphoria rolled through my head. I had lost count of how many I had drank, it was more than yesterday I’m sure. I didn’t mind, however. This was the only way I could feel. I had become numb. I remember hearing stories as a boy of soldiers who would wake in the night screaming. I was prepared for that. I had personally experienced several night terrors of that kind. What I wasn’t prepared for was the stripping of all human emotion. Anger, happiness, sadness, love. All fled, leaving a hollow shell.

It is true what they say. That once a man enlists, he seals his own death. If he is not felled in battle, the demons of the mind will soon finish the job. I had seen many a man lose to such demons, demons that are willingly accepted by young soldiers. It is hard to explain the reality of it to the young. I remember myself, eager to fight. Had I known what I knew now, I would not have gone. I was a naïve fool.

The tavern keeper had long since given up on speaking with me. At first, he would try to tell what he thought were funny stories of his recent days working the bar. One was about a tavern boy who slipped on his way to deliver a tray of tankards to a table, the beer spilling all over the patrons. As far as small talk goes, I suppose this would have been one of the more amusing conversations. But after years of living with death only a wrong step away, stories like this just seem pointless.

‘To the emperor!’ I heard merrymakers cheer from opposite end of the bar.

To the emperor. What a joke. If only they knew the true nature of the war and Imperium. There was little point in me telling them, they wouldn’t believe me even if I did. I threw some coppers on the bar and unsteadily rose to my feet.

As I made my way towards the exit, a voice called over to me. ‘Aren’t you the Rabasan’s kid, the soldier?’

I turned to see a small crowd looking at me, patriotic appreciation in their eyes. I despised that look.

‘It is him!’ One voice said. ‘It’s great to see you back safe and sound from the front’

‘The hero’s return!’ Another voice. ‘It’s brave men like you who keep the Haram from ever reaching our shores.’

A small laugh burst from my lips. Hero? I had always strived to do good in the world. A good deed can go along way. But during those years at the front, I had never felt more like a villain in my life. A heavy burden that I will take with me to the grave.

Much has changed over the past years. I had gone from a young boy, eager to serve his kingdom and to prove his worth to the world. To now, a man who needs to drink himself into a stupor just to feel alive.

Outside, the air smelled crisp. It sent my head to spinning. I propped myself by the wall of the tavern and vomited into the dirt. Money wasted.

I will soon be posted again. I am told my next campaign will be less bloody. I imagine it no less cruel though. I had considered leaving, running far away. But the reach of Imperium is far and wide. I wouldn’t get far.

I staggered back up the track, to my unavoidable fate.

Let me know what you think in the comments!