Best Quotes from Joan Didion

By | November 15, 2016

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

Joan Didion

Late afternoon on the West Coast ends with the sky doing all its brilliant stuff.

Joan Didion

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. 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.

Joan Didion

Was there ever in anyone’s life span a point free in time, devoid of memory, a night when choice was any more than the sum of all the choices gone before?

Joan Didion

The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way.

Joan Didion

It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.

Joan Didion

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.

Joan Didion

I don’t think anybody feels like they’re a good parent. Or if people think they’re good parents, they ought to think again.

Joan Didion

You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that.

Joan Didion

In many ways, writing is the act of saying ‘I,’ of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying, ‘Listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.’ It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.

Joan Didion

In many ways, writing is the act of saying ‘I,’ of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying, ‘Listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.’ It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.

Joan Didion

I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.

Joan Didion

I lead a very conventional life. I don’t lead a writer’s life. And I think that can be a source of suspicion and irritation to some people. This was more true when I was living in California, when I didn’t lead a writer’s life at all.

Joan Didion

I have always wanted a swimming pool and never had one.

Joan Didion

The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.

Joan Didion

Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price.

Joan Didion

Of course great hotels have always been social ideas, flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service.

Joan Didion

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.

Joan Didion

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.

Joan Didion

Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.

Joan Didion

A lot of the stories I was brought up on had to do with extreme actions – leaving everything behind, crossing the trackless wastes, and in those stories the people who stayed behind and had their settled ways – those people were not the people who got the prize. The prize was California.

Joan Didion

Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. 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.

Joan Didion

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.

Joan Didion

One of the things that happens to people in grief is they secretly think they’re crazy, because they realize they are thinking things that don’t make sense.

Joan Didion

The West begins where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches. Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control.

Joan Didion

New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.

Joan Didion

Memories are what you no longer want to remember.

Joan Didion

Memories are what you no longer want to remember.

Joan Didion

The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers.

Joan Didion

You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.

Joan Didion

The clothes chosen for me as a child had a strong element of the Pre-Raphaelite, muted greens and ivories, dusty rose, what seems in retrospect an eccentric amount of black.

Joan Didion

Once in a while, when I first started to write pieces, I would try to write to a reader other than myself. I always failed. I would freeze up.

Joan Didion

To believe in ‘the greater good’ is to operate, necessarily, in a certain ethical suspension.

Joan Didion

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.

Joan Didion

I’ve never been keen on open adoption. It doesn’t seem to solve the main problem with adoption, which is that somebody feels she was abandoned by someone else.

Joan Didion

You aren’t sure if you’re making the right decision – about anything, ever.

Joan Didion

There’s a general impulse to distract the grieving person – as if you could.

Joan Didion

When I was in fact a child, six and seven and eight years old, I was utterly baffled by the enthusiasm with which my cousin Brenda, a year and a half younger, accepted her mother’s definition of her as someone who needed to go to bed at six-thirty and finish every bite of three vegetables, one of them yellow, with every meal.

Joan Didion

Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

Joan Didion

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

Joan Didion

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.

Joan Didion

I recognize a lot of the things I’m going through. Like, I lose my temper a lot and I become unhinged and kind of hysterical.

Joan Didion

I’m not sure I have the physical strength to undertake a novel.

Joan Didion

I am always writing to myself.

Joan Didion

All of these things we do without children, and suddenly we don’t do them anymore, and it comes home to us in a real way, that it’s very different to have the responsibility of a child.

Joan Didion

When I went to San Francisco in that cold late spring of 1967, I did not even know what I wanted to find out, and so I just stayed around a while and made a few friends.

Joan Didion

The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive.

Joan Didion

Style is character.

Joan Didion

I could talk more directly in a nonfiction voice than I could in fiction.

Joan Didion

My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.

Joan Didion

The minute you start putting words on paper you’re eliminating possibilities.

Joan Didion

Hemingway was really early. I probably started reading him when I was just eleven or twelve. There was just something magnetic to me in the arrangement of those sentences. Because they were so simple – or rather they appeared to be so simple, but they weren’t.

Joan Didion

The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.

Joan Didion

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