116+ Best Joan Didion Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Joan Didion is an American essayist. In the late 1960s, Didion’s reportage brought Californian subcultures to wider attention. Her political writing often concentrated on the subtext of rhetoric. Profoundly inspirational Joan Didion quotes will challenge the way you think, and help guide you through any life experience.

If you’re searching for beautiful quotes by authors that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of profound John Green quotes, amazing J.R.R Tolkien quotes and top Kurt Vonnegut quotes.

Famous Joan Didion Quotes

I was no longer, if I had ever been, afraid to die: I was now afraid not to die. – Joan Didion

Aging and its evidence remain life’s most predictable events, yet they also remain matters we prefer to leave unmentioned, unexplored. – Joan Didion

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

You have to make sure you have the characters you want. That’s really the most complicated part. – Joan Didion

When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something… but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, that is when we join the fashionable madmen. – Joan Didion

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. – Joan Didion

Yes, but another writer I read in high school who just knocked me out was Theodore Dreiser. I read An American Tragedy all in one weekend and couldn’t put it down – I locked myself in my room. Now that was antithetical to every other book I was reading at the time because Dreiser really had no style, but it was powerful. – Joan Didion

Anything worth having has its price. – Joan Didion

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

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

He was an outsider who lived by his ability to manipulate the inside. – Joan Didion

My own fantasies of what life would be like at 24 tended to the more spectacular. – 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

Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone. – Joan Didion

The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past … Here is the last stop for all those who come from somewhere else, for all those who drifted away from the cold and the past and the old ways. – Joan Didion

Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be. – Joan Didion

I do have a strong sense of an order in the universe. – Joan Didion

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

Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus. – Joan Didion

The ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language. – Joan Didion

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

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

I’ve always been fascinated with marine geography and how deep things are. I was spellbound by the tsunami, for example, by the actual maps. There is just something about the unseen bottom of the sea that has always fascinated me, how deep is it. – Joan Didion

I think nobody owns the land until their dead are in it. – Joan Didion

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

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

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. – Joan Didion

Making judgments on films is in many ways so peculiarly vaporous an occupation that the only question is why, beyond the obvious opportunities for a few lectures’ fees and a little careerism at a dispiritingly self-limiting level, anyone does it in the first place. – Joan Didion

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

There’s a lot of landscape I never would have described if I hadn’t been homesick. The impulse was nostalgia. – Joan Didion

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

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

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

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

We are the stories we tell ourselves – Joan Didion

Once I get over maybe a hundred pages, I won’t go back to page one, but I might go back to page fifty-five, or twenty, even. But then every once in a while I feel the need to go to page one again and start rewriting. – Joan Didion

I hadn’t thought that I was generally a pack rat, but it turns out I am. – Joan Didion

Strength is one of those things you’re supposed to have. You don’t feel that you have it at the time you’re going through it. – Joan Didion

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

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything. – Joan Didion

Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignation with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one’s marked cards- the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. – Joan Didion

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

Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive. – 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 mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? – Joan Didion

I have not been the witness I wanted to be. – Joan Didion

In the early years, you fight because you don’t understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do. – Joan Didion

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

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

I myself have always found that if I examine something, it’s less scary. I grew up in the West, and we always had this theory that if you saw – if you kept the snake in your eye line, the snake wasn’t going to bite you. And that’s kind of the way I feel about confronting pain. I want to know where it is. – Joan Didion

Memories are what you no longer want to remember. – Joan Didion

A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty. – Joan Didion

I closed the box and put it in a closet. There is no real way to deal with everything we lose. – Joan Didion

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

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

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

I don’t lead a writer’s life. And I think that can be a source of suspicion and irritation to some people. – Joan Didion

Outside, a ceiling of pearly gray clouds coalesced over Manhattan, and the apartment had grown dark. It just keeps dripping. It’s been like this all week, .. Rain would be a relief. – Joan Didion

I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man; lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and a proven competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the non-plused apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand. – Joan Didion

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

Any compulsion tries to justify itself. – Joan Didion

I have never started a novel – I mean except the first, when I was starting a novel just to start a novel – I’ve never written one without rereading Victory. It opens up the possibilities of a novel. It makes it seem worth doing. – Joan Didion

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

Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. – Joan Didion

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

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

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

We all survive more than we think we can. – Joan Didion

We all have the same dreams. – Joan Didion

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

In the absence of a natural disaster we are left again to our own uneasy devices. – Joan Didion

I’m totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter. – Joan Didion

It occurs to me as I write that this white light, usually presented dippily (evidence of afterlife, higher power), is in fact precisely consistent with the oxygen deficit that occurs as blood flow to the brain decreases. Everything went white, those whose blood pressure has dropped say of the instant before they faint. – Joan Didion

Before I started working on a computer, writing a piece would be like making something up every day, taking the material and never quite knowing where you were going to go next with the material. With a computer it was less like painting and more like sculpture, where you start with a block of something and then start shaping it. – Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We live entirely by the impression of a narrative line upon disparate images, the shifting phantasmagoria, which is our actual experience. – 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

Time is the school in which we learn. – Joan Didion

A young woman with long hair and a short white halter dress walks through the casino at the Riviera in Las Vegas at one in the morning. It was precisely this moment that made Play It As It Lays begin to tell itself to me. – Joan Didion

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

I never had much interest in being a child. As a way of being it seemed flat, failed to engage. – Joan Didion

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

Before I’d written movies, I never could do big set-piece scenes with a lot of different speakers – when you’ve got twelve people around a dinner table talking at cross purposes. I had always been impressed by other people’s ability to do that. – Joan Didion

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

Marriage is memory, marriage is time. Marriage is not only time: it is also, parodoxically, the denial of time. – 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

In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact, they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else, I could never afford to see. – Joan Didion

Of course, you always think about how it will be read. I always aim for a reading in one sitting. – Joan Didion

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States. – Joan Didion

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

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

It Was Once Suggested to Me that, as an Antidote to Crying, I Put My Head in a Paper Bag. – Joan Didion

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

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

On the whole, I don’t want to think too much about why I write what I write. If I know what I’m doing … I can’t do it. – Joan Didion

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

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. – Joan Didion

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

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

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

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

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

And I have learned now to live with it, learned when to expect it, how to outwit it, even how to regard it, when it does come, as more friend than lodger. We have reached a certain understanding, my migraine and I. – Joan Didion

There’s a point when you go with what you’ve got. Or you don’t go. – Joan Didion

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

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

I lead a very conventional life. – Joan Didion

I know what nothing means, and keep on playing. – Joan Didion

What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask. – Joan Didion

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

Writers are only rarely likable. – 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. To think of ‘living’ there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not ‘live’ at Xanadu. – Joan Didion

As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs…The way I write is who I am, or have become. – 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

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

Information is control. – Joan Didion