25 Joan Didion Quotes on Life, Reflection, and Writing

Enjoy these Joan Didion quotes for an insight into her life.

Joan Didion is an American writer born in Sacramento, CA, in 1934.

Joan’s early life was unstable; she constantly moved about the country because of her father’s job in the Army.

Tell us your favorite Joan Didion quote in the comment section below.

What are the benefits of reading these Joan Didion quotes?

Along with her social anxiety, the moving made it hard for her to make friends and develop relationships, so she spent much of her early life in books and learning.

This paid off when in 1956, she won a contest sponsored by Vogue and was rewarded with a job at Vogue as a research assistant.

These Joan Didion quotes can teach us a lot about:

  • life
  • writing
  • our mortality

Don’t forget to check out these Year of Magical Thinking quotes.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration.

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Joan Didion quotes on life

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

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

3. “There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.” – Joan Didion

4. “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” – Joan Didion

5. “… one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.” – Joan Didion

6. “Innocence ends when we are stripped of the delusion one likes oneself.” – Joan Didion

Joan Didion quotes about humanity and mortality

7. “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

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8. “We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.” – Joan Didion

9. “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

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

11. “One man’s loose cannon is another’s freedom fight, or, in the local phrase, a man of action, or man of valor.” – Joan Didion

12. “Marriage is memory, marriage is time. Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time.” – Joan Didion

Joan Didion quotes from her writing

13. “Once she was born, I was never not afraid.” – Joan Didion

14. “During the blue nights, you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone…Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also it’s warning.” – Joan Didion

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15. “To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself and finds no one at home.” – Joan Didion

16. “A good part of any day in Los Angeles is spent driving, alone, through streets devoid of mean­ing to the driver, which is one reason the place ex­hilarates some people and floods others with an amorphous unease. There is about these hours spent in transit a seductive unconnectedness. ” – Joan Didion

17. “There was silence. Something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant.” – Joan Didion

18. “…we never reach a point at which our lives lie before us as a clearly marked open road, never have and never should expect a map to the years ahead, never do close those circles that seem, at thirteen and fourteen and nineteen, so urgently in need of closing.” – Joan Didion

More Joan Didion quotes about writing

19. “I did not want to finish the year because I know that as the days pass, as January becomes February and February becomes summer, certain things will happen. My image of John at the instant of his death will become less immediate, less raw. It will become something that happened in another year.” – Joan Didion

20. “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

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

22. “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

23. “By the end of the week, she was thinking constantly about where her body stopped and the air began about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other.” – Joan Didion

24. “It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who takes about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” – Joan Didion

25. “The impulse to write things down is a particularly 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.” – Joan Didion

What did you learn from these Joan Didion quotes?

As you read the quotes above, you have gotten to know a little about Joan Didion.

Joan Didion is a great example of someone taking their circumstances and turning them into something good.

Her learning, book skills, and job experience helped her become an accomplished writer.

Never think that your skills and experiences are worthless.

Don’t discount who you are or what you want; you may turn your experiences into a great career like Joan Didion.

Joan has not stopped writing books either.

She has also developed and written screenplays.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Joan Didion quotes and sayings?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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