Joan Didion quotes

  • 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

    #Reading #Simple #Twelve

  • Something I've always known about the screen is that if it's anything in the world, it's literal. It's so literal that there's a whole lot you can't do because you're stuck with the literalness of the screen. The stage is not literal.
    -- Joan Didion

    #World #Stage #Stuck

  • We are repeatedly left, in other words, with no further focus than ourselves, a source from which self-pity naturally flows. Each time this happens I am struck again by the permanent impassibility of the divide. Some people who have lost a husband or a wife report feeling that person's presence, receiving that person's advice. Some report actual sightings, what Freud described in "Mourning and Melancholia" as "a clinging to the object through the medium of a hallucinatory wishful psychosis." Others describe not a visible apparition but just a "very strongly felt presence."
    -- Joan Didion

    #Husband #Psychosis #Self

  • Becoming a parent is actually terrifying. A lot of people have that feeling about their dogs. And if you're the kind of person who's going to have that feeling about a dog you're definitely going to have that about a child.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Dog #Children #People

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

    #Life #Respect #Self Esteem

  • Actually, when John died, for the first time I thought - for the first time I realized how old I was, because I'd always thought of myself - when John was alive I saw myself through his eyes and he saw me as how old I was when we got married - and so when he died I kind of looked at myself in a different way. And this has kept on since then. The yellow corvette. When I gave up the yellow corvette, I literally gave up on it, I turned it in on a Volvo station wagon.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Eye #Yellow #Different

  • We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.
    -- Joan Didion

    #People #Nodding #Attractive

  • Most death now happens in hospitals. It's been medicalized. It happens away from where we deal with it directly. And that's a huge change. At the beginning of the 20th century most people died at home. Death was much more common.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Home #People #Common

  • We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Memories #Never Forget #Forget

  • When you lose someone, a whole lot of perfectly normal circumstances suddenly take on different meaning. You see it in a different light. You wonder if they knew. I wondered. Doctors have told me that people do have a sense of their own approaching death.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Doctors #Light #People

  • 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

    #Writing #Mean #Thinking

  • Short stories demand a certain awareness of one's own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Focus #Stories #Demand

  • Grammar is a piano I play by ear.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Play #Piano #Ears

  • Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Music #Power #Play

  • Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Life Changing #Ordinary #Existentialism

  • It occurs to me that we allow ourselves to imagine only such messages as we need to survive.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Generosity #Needs #Messages

  • The fear is for what is still to be lost.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Lost #Stills

  • 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.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Suicide #Ideas #Order

  • Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Memories #Thinking #Remember

  • What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Two #Gone #Flow

  • Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Blessed #Writing #Mind

  • This book is called "Blue Nights" because at the time I began it I found my mind turning increasingly to illness, to the end of promise, the dwindling of the days,the inevitability of the fading, the dying of the brightness. Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Book #Night #Blue

  • Ask anyone committed to Marxist analysis how many angels on the head of a pin, and you will be asked in return to never mind the angels, tell me who controls the production of pins.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Angel #Mind #Analysis

  • 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

    #Adoption #Problem #Abandoned

  • We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Order #Stories

  • To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Self #Cures #Dissatisfaction

  • We all survive more than we think we can,
    -- Joan Didion

    #Thinking

  • 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

    #Running #People #Forget

  • Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Likes #Innocence #Ends

  • I don't write for catharsis; I have to write to understand.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Catharsis

  • 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

    #Time #Memories #Night

  • The secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power's sake... but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy. It is the instinct which drove America to the Pacific, all through the nineteenth century, the desire to be able to find a restaurant open in case you want a sandwich, to be a free agent, live by one's own rules.
    -- Joan Didion

    #America #Secret #Desire

  • I found earthquakes, even when I was in them, deeply satisfying, abruptly revealed evidence of the scheme in action. That the schemes could destroy the works of man might be a personal regret but remained, in the larger picture I had come to recognize, a matter of abiding indifference. No eye was on the sparrow. No eye was watching me.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Regret #Eye #Men

  • The ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of the language.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Thinking #Self #Mastery

  • Another thing I need to do, when I'm near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it...Somehow the book doesn't leave you when you're asleep right next to it.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Book #Sleep #Needs

  • Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Sculpture #Research

  • I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be
    -- Joan Didion

    #Couple #People #Used

  • 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

    #Dream #Listening #Want

  • I don't know what I think until I write it down.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Thinking

  • You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Commitment #Powerful Women #Walks

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

    #Respect #Self #Anything Worth Having

  • Late afternoon on the West Coast ends with the sky doing all its brilliant stuff.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Sky #West #Afternoon

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

    #Life #Dinner #Ends

  • 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

    #Respect #Lying #Self

  • Somehow writing has always seemed to me to have an element of performance.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Elements #Performances

  • 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

    #Writing #Answers #Novel

  • One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Mean #Defense #Matter

  • You have your wonderful memories," people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Memories #Past #People

  • 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.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Book #Pages #Rhythm

  • The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Trying #Way

  • Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Notebook #Lonely #Children

  • Details are our business as writers. Your heart leaps when you see a detail that can go somewhere
    -- Joan Didion

    #Heart #Details #Leap

  • People tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember. Writers are always selling somebody out.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Running #People #Lasts

  • The minute you start putting words on paper you're eliminating possibilities.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Paper #Possibility #Minutes

  • Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. 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

    #Blessed #Writing #Mean

  • We write to discover what we think.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Thinking

  • The past could be jettisoned . . . but seeds got carried.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Past #Genealogy

  • The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Wind #Shows

  • Read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information is control.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Literature #Information #Working It

  • It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Easy #Ends #Harder

  • I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and ***** and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.
    -- Joan Didion

    #People #Appreciate #Alcohol

  • 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

    #Night #Thinking #Doors

  • Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?
    -- Joan Didion

    #Dream #Writing

  • I'm totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Typewriters #World #Tiny

  • Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Distance #Grief #Eye

  • Writers are always selling somebody out.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Selling

  • Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Notebook #Daughter #Lonely

  • 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 nonfiction. You have to sit down every day and make it up.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Half #Way

  • Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control.
    -- Joan Didion

    #People #Water #Important

  • California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky,is where we run out of continent.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Running #Loss #California

  • 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.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Cameras #Structure

  • 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

    #Love #Forever #Shapes

  • That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Mistake #Procrastination #Years

  • Marriage is memory, marriage is time.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Memories

  • 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. To think of 'living' there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not 'live' at Xanadu.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Dream #New York #Thinking

  • California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Loss #California #Uneasy

  • The impulse for much writing is homesickness. You are trying to get back home, and in your writing you are invoking that home, so you are assuaging the homesickness.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Home #Writing #Trying

  • The secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power's sake but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy.
    -- Joan Didion

    #America #Secret #Mobility

  • Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Thinking #Water #World

  • Sometimes I'll be fifty, sixty pages into something and I'll still be calling a character "X." I don't have a very clear idea of who the characters are until they start talking. Then I start to love them. By the time I finish the book, I love them so much that I want to stay with them. I don't want to leave them ever.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Book #Character #Talking

  • There was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible
    -- Joan Didion

    #Levels

  • The last sentence in a piece is another adventure. It should open the piece up.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Adventure #Pieces #Lasts

  • I am a writer. Imagining what someone would say or do comes to me as naturally as breathing.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Breathing

  • I learned early to keep death in my line of sight, keep it under surveillance, keep it on cleared ground and away from any brush where it might coil unnoticed.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Death #Sight #Lines

  • To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one
    -- Joan Didion

    #Princess #Self #Rose

  • Despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, [the death of a parent] dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise us and may cut free memories and feelings that we thought had gone to ground long ago. We might, in that indeterminate period they call mourning, be in a submarine, silent on the ocean's bed, aware of the depth charges, now near and now far, buffeting us with recollections.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Memories #Ocean #Cutting

  • We imagine things — that we wouldn't be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive. ... We have no choice, so we do it.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Choices #Able #Facts

  • Nothing I read about grief seemed to exactly express the craziness of it; which was the interesting aspect of it to me - how really tenuous our sanity is.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Grief #Interesting #Sanity

  • Throw yourself into the convulsions of the world. I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it, to look at it, to witness it. Try and get it. Seize the moment.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Life #Believe #Trying

  • Americans are uneasy with their possessions, guilty about power, all of which is difficult for Europeans to perceive because they are themselves so truly materialistic, so versed in the uses of power.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Power #Use #Materialistic

  • New York is full of people . . . with a feeling for the tangential adventure, the risky adventure, the interlude that's not likely to end in any double-ring ceremony.
    -- Joan Didion

    #New York #Adventure #People

  • There's a general impulse to distract the grieving person - as if you could.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Grieving #Impulse #Persons

  • I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I've already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That's very discouraging. I hate the book at that point. After a while I arrive at an accommodation: Well, it's not the ideal, it's not the perfect object I wanted to make, but maybe—if I go ahead and finish it anyway—I can get it right next time. Maybe I can have another chance.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Hate #Book #Color

  • It is impossible to think of Howard Hughes without seeing the apparently bottomless gulf between what we say we want and what we do want, between what we officially admire and secretly desire, between, in the largest sense, the people we marry and the people we love. In a nation which increasingly appears to prize social virtues, Howard Hughes remains not merely antisocial but grandly, brilliantly, surpassingly, asocial. He is the last private man, the dream we no longer admit.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Love #Dream #Men

  • A pool is, for many of us in the West, a symbol not of affluence but of order, of control over the uncontrollable. A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the western eye.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Eye #Order #Water

  • Going back to California is not like going back to Vermont, or Chicago; Vermont and Chicago are relative constants, against which one measures one's own change. All that is constant about the California of my childhood is the rate at which it disappears.
    -- Joan Didion

    #California #Childhood #Chicago

  • To believe in'the greater good' isto operate, necessarily, in a certain ethical suspension.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Believe #Ethical #Certain

  • My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. in the rewriting process you discover what's going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #Process #Filling

  • 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."
    -- Joan Didion

    #Writing #People #Mind

  • If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out—since our self-image is untenable—their false notions of us… We play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.
    -- Joan Didion

    #Self #Hands #Play