Memoir as an expression of Free Will

By Jerry Waxler

Terri Gross interviewed Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse last night. Dr. Volkow, an expert on drug addiction, said, “When someone becomes addicted, they are no longer in control of their actions. Even though they want to stop, they can’t.” She continued, “I’ve always been fascinated by the conflict between what a person wants to do and what they actually do. It raises the question of Free Will.” I loved the interview. Volkow is an animated speaker, and she has a fascinating past. She grew up in Mexico in the house where her great grandfather Leon Trotsky was assassinated. (She could write a book about that.) Here’s the link to the interview if you’re interested in drug addiction, or simply want to listen to a great interview.

But what really caught my attention was her comment about Free Will. That’s interesting to me too, from the opposite direction than is faced by addicts. Many aspiring writers have the problem of wanting to write, but are not able to do so. It seems peculiar that a person would want to do something, and then not. I wonder, “who is in charge.” To write your memoir, you’ll need to find the solution to this age old challenge of Free Will.

How do you exercise your Free Will when you say “I want to write?” Leave a comment if you have thoughts on this issue. If you want to read a book of my suggestions about how to tackle this challenge, check out, “Four Elements for Writers, How to Get Beyond “Yes-But,” Conquer Self-Doubt and Inertia, and Achieve Your Writing Goals” by Jerry Waxler

5 thoughts on “Memoir as an expression of Free Will

  1. I work full-time in a job (not writing related) and have two daughters and a lot of commitments, but I still write every day for myself. I’m not able to throw myself into a book, but I see my writing practice almost as a way to stay toned (the sit-ups and sprints) for when my girls are out of the house and I can become consumed with a book. Sometimes I worry that this little set-up that I have is another excuse for not diving in, but another side of me seems to know what I’m doing.

    Thanks for the link to the interview. I’ll definitely listen to it.

  2. I don’t think the issue of free will is relevant to most memoir writers. Unless one is in the grip of addiction, I don’t see free will being a limiting factor.

    Spare time . . . probably

    Resolve and dedication . . . . probably

    Command of language, grammar, diction . . . sometimes

    Physical ability to write . . . yes, for the disabled.

    I hear so many stories that essentially justify not doing something. It doesn’t matter what the something is . . . writing, painting, racing, gardening. Those few people who have the resolve will write.

    Those who write, and who have command of language, will probably find markets for their work. That’s especially true today, with the Internet and electronic distribution

  3. Hi John,

    Thanks for your encouragement. It’s true. The internet is expanding our options faster than I can keep up. It’s great to hear from someone whose memoir writing is going to the next step. Thanks for letting us join you during the publishing process on your blog. Very informative.


  4. Hi Ybonesy,

    So what I’m hearing you say is that you have a passion to express your creativity. And amidst the distractions of life you act to fulfill your passion. That sounds to me like a great formula for a fulfilling life. Thanks for sharing it!


  5. Perhaps its not free will, but strength of will that matters. Many people face limiting factors in reaching their goals, but those will enough strength of will find ways to overcome. If you want something enough, you will find a way to make it happen — or you will find a way to be happy without it. The choice is yours – so here we are back at free will again!

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