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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 who was born in Sacramento, CA in 1934. Joan’s early life consisted of instability with constant moving about the country due to her father’s job in the Army.

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.

Don’t forget to also check out these encouraging Joyce Meyer quotes for life.

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

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

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

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

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

Joan Didion quotes about writing

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

26. “Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.” – Joan Didion

27. “Our favorite people and our favorite stories become so not by any inherent virtue, but because they illustrate something deep in the grain, something unadmitted.” – Joan Didion

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28. “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 their dream.” – Joan Didion

29. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” – Joan Didion
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of writing quotes that will inspire you to begin your own writing journey.

30. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” – Joan Didion

31. “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearranges of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” – Joan Didion

Joan Didion quotes on self-reflection

32. “As time goes by I think that men who were unable to make choices were more right than those who made them. Because there are no clear choices.” – Joan Didion

33. “I am what I am. To look for reasons is beside the point.” – Joan Didion

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

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

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

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

38. “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

39. “I have come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction of what there was to know.” – Joan Didion

40. “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.” – Joan Didion

41. “The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.” – Joan Didion

Joan Didion quotes that will make your day

42. “The past could be jettisoned . . . but seeds got carried.” – Joan Didion

43. “If you remember it, it’s true.” – Joan Didion

44. “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.” – Joan Didion

45. “I have already lost touch with a couple I used to be.” – Joan Didion

46. “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

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47. “Everything goes. I am working very hard at not thinking about how everything goes.” – Joan Didion

48. “There must be a certain peace in outliving all debts and claims, in being known to no one, floating free. I believed that days would be too full forever, too crowded with friends there was no time to see…I was wrong.” – Joan Didion

49. “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.” – Joan Didion

50. “Joan Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be.” – Joan Didion

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

More Joan Didion quotes

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

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

54. “Why do you always have to be right? Why do you always have to have the last word? For once in your life just let it go.” – Joan Didion

55. “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

56. “When you’re writing fiction, you don’t have notes necessarily. You don’t carve it, it’s not like a piece of sculpture, it’s more like watercolor.” – Joan Didion

57. “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

58. “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

59. “I lead a very conventional life.” – Joan Didion

60. “Writers are only rarely likable.” – Joan Didion

What did you learn from these Joan Didion quotes?

As you read the quotes above, you have had an opportunity to get to know a little about Joan Didion. Joan Didion is a great example of someone taking their circumstances and turning them into something good.

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

Don’t ever think that your skills and experiences are worthless. Don’t discount who you are or what you want and you may be able to turn your experiences into a great career just like Joan Didion.

Joan has not stopped at 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.

Stephanie Kirby
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