What motivates you in life? In your writing? What are your values? These are important questions and broad questions. They are core questions. And they are essential to answer because they help us make the right decisions. Often times when we come into conflict with others or within ourselves it's because two competing values are coming into conflict. For example, you may value personal time a lot while your friend values social connection a lot. She could spend hours talking while half an hour is enough for you because you value your personal time a bit more. When you try to get out of the conversation, she might feel rejected. If you keep talking longer than you prefer, you might feel you have betrayed a core value: having personal time. It is important to identify our values and even be in the habit of identifying the values of others to help reduce conflict. It can also be helpful in terms of our writing. Often times we reflect our values in our work. Or, if our characters are different from us, it can help to identify their values so we develop them as authentically as possible on the page.
Values are distinct from goals. A goal might be I want to publish my book. The value might be creativity or communication or discovery. A goal might be I want to get an M.A. in the study of birds. The value might be education or nature. Your character's goal might be to start dating the new cashier at the cafe down the street. The value might be love. The value is the abstract/ethical category from which our goals emerge. Make a list of your nine core values (do this every now and again because they may change over time). It can be empowering to do so and it's better to keep the number in the single digits (i.e. less than 10). Below I list my nine core values and provide a link to a list of almost 400 values from which to pick your top nine:
My core values:
Make your list. Keep it close. See how it connects to your writing or informs the themes that emerge in your writing. Every piece of writing is an argument of sorts. Do you seem to be arguing in favor of your values? Here's a link to a list of values to choose from: