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!

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