65 Joan Didion Quotes For Success In Life

Joan Didion is an American writer who launched her career in the 1960s after winning an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. Her writing during the 1960s through the late 1970s engaged audiences in the realities of the counterculture of the ’60s and the Hollywood lifestyle. Her political writing often concentrated on the subtext of political and social rhetoric. These Joan Didion quotes will motivate you.

Best Joan Didion Quotes

  1. “The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~ Joan Didion
  2. “There’s a point when you go with what you’ve got. Or you don’t go.” ~ Joan Didion
  3. “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be” ~ Joan Didion
  4. “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
  5. “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
  6. “We are the stories we tell ourselves” ~ Joan Didion
  7. “To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self.” ~ Joan Didion

  8. “What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you’re alone with yourself and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you just to live in the mess. Throw yourself out 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 telling you to live in it. Try and get it. Take chances, make your own work, take pride in it. Seize the moment.” ~ Joan Didion
  9. “I know what the fear is. The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked doors. The fear is for what is still to be lost.” ~ Joan Didion
  10. “We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” ~ Joan Didion
  11. “We all survive more than we think we can.” ~ Joan Didion

  12. “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
  13. “Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” ~ Joan Didion
  14. “Anything worth having has its price.” ~ Joan Didion
  15. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ~ Joan Didion
  16. “Grammar is a piano I play by ear.” ~ Joan Didion
  17. “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
  18. “The fear is for what is still to be lost.” ~ Joan Didion

  19. “Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.” ~ Joan Didion
  20. “I’m totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter.” ~ Joan Didion
  21. Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.” ~ Joan Didion
  22. “I don’t think anybody feels like they’re a good parent. Or if people think they’re good parents, they ought to think again.” ~ Joan Didion
  23. “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
  24. “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
  25. Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” ~ Joan Didion

  26. “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” ~ Joan Didion
  27. “When the ground starts moving, all bets are off.” ~ Joan Didion
  28. “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
  29. “A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.” ~ Joan Didion Quotes
  30. “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.” ~ Joan Didion
  31. “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” ~ Joan Didion
  32. “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” ~ Joan Didion
  33. “The ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language.” ~ Joan Didion

  34. “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
  35. “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 the continent.” ~ Joan Didion
  36. “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
  37. “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
  38. “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
  39. “Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.” ~ Joan Didion

  40. “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
  41. “Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification.” ~ Joan Didion
  42. “I’ve come to a much more controlled idea about death and loss, but I don’t think it’s possible to come to that much more controlled idea until you’ve gone through the crazy part . . . I don’t mean that I’m controlled. I mean that I gave up the idea that I had control. That’s the new control.” ~ Joan Didion
  43. “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
  44. “Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price.” ~ Joan Didion

  45. “The freeway experience … is the only secular communion Los Angeles has. Mere driving on the freeway is in no way the same as participating in it. Anyone can “drive” on the freeway, and many people with no vocation for it do, hesitating here and resisting there, losing the rhythm of the lane change, thinking about where they came from and where they are going. Actual participation requires total surrender, a concentration so intense as to seem a kind of narcosis, a rapture-of-the-freeway. The mind goes clean. The rhythm takes over.” ~ Joan Didion
  46. “People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called *character,* a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to the other, more instantly negotiable virtues…. character–the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life–is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~ Joan Didion
  47. “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 Quotes
  48. “I … have another cup of coffee with my mother. We get along very well, veterans of a guerrilla war we never understood.” ~ Joan Didion
  49. “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
  50. “Writers are always selling somebody out.” ~ Joan Didion

  51. “[O]ne 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 before.” ~ Joan Didion
  52. “Above all, she is the girl who ‘feels’ things, who has hung on to the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young. Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants them to or not, Joan Baez rarely leaves the Carmel Valley.” ~ Joan Didion
  53. “Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.” ~ Joan Didion
  54. “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
  55. “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
  56. “I don’t write for catharsis; I have to write to understand.” ~ Joan Didion

  57. “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 Quotes
  58. “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
  59. “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 heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.” ~ Joan Didion
  60. “You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” ~ Joan Didion

  61. “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
  62. “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
  63. “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
  64. “It occurs to me that we allow ourselves to imagine only such messages as we need to survive.” ~ Joan Didion
  65. “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

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