13 Quotes From Joan Didion To Inspire Every Writer

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Although her time on Earth has come to a close, Joan Didion’s powerful words are her new legacy and will continue to inspire people for years to come. 

Joan Didion’s writing career began when she won an essay contest for Vogue magazine in the 1950s. She continued writing about the Hollywood lifestyle of the ‘60s and politics. 

It wasn’t until 55 years after she began writing that she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Year of Magical Thinking. Since then, she has written even more books and received more awards and accolades for her work. 

While she will be missed, her legacy has left a lasting mark on society. Today, we’re sharing our favorite quotes by Joan Didion to inspire you.

On Knowing Yourself

“I am what I am. To look for reasons is beside the point.”

“We all survive more than we think we can.”

“Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself”

On Stories

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

“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.”

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

“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.”

On Becoming Good People


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“Do not whine…Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.”

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

“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.”

On Life

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“…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.”

“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.”

“To free us from the expectation of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”


Have you read Joan Didion’s work? Which was your favorite? Comment below!

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