Joan Didion

Literary Birthday – 5 December – Joan Didion

Joan Didion was born 5 December 1934 and died 23 December 2021.

Quotes on Writing

  1. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
  2. We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
  3. Writers are always selling somebody out.
  4. The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it.
  5. The ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language.
  6. When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.
  7. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.
  8. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed.
  9. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolours. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
  10. Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.
  11. Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through. The work process is totally different from writing non-fiction. You have to sit down every day and make it up.
  12. I am a writer. Imagining what someone would say or do comes to me as naturally as breathing.
  13. Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.

Joan Didion was an American author best known for her novels, screenplays, and her literary journalism. In 2009, Didion was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Harvard University, and another from Yale University in 2011. She also wrote two memoirs of loss, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights.

Source for Image

David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 5th December 2012