Gina Vaynshteyn
December 05, 2014 10:44 am

Joan Didion, one of the greatest American writers we are so lucky to have, is celebrating her 80th birthday today. And we’re celebrating along with her.

Didion, who is every writer’s fairy journalism godmother, has more likely than not, influenced us, shaped the way we think about our environment and how we perceive ourselves. She taught us to be hyper-observant, critical, and careful. She mentored us with her sagacity and her fierce control of language. She encouraged us to pay very close attention to the words we wrote down — every detail will always matter. Didion pushed us to be unapologetic about our views and our craft; she stubbornly believed in the integrity and truth of one’s work. Writing is something which is ours, something no one can take it away from us.

Joan Didion is not just a writer for writers. She’s a writer for those who question the status quo and cultural phenomenons. Her views on the craft of writing, life, empowerment, strength, life, and death are applicable to all of us. Here are some amazing quotes from the infinitely wonderful Joan Didion.

On writing:

“Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Once in a while, when I first started to write pieces, I would try to write to a reader other than myself. I always failed. I would freeze up.”

“I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t realize then that it’s the same impulse. It’s make-believe. It’s performance.”

“Nothing is critic-proof.”

On self empowerment, respect, and strength:

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

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

“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.”

“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.”

On life and death:

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

“You aren’t sure if you’re making the right decision — about anything, ever.”

“Nothing I read about grief seemed to exactly express the craziness of it; which was the interesting aspect of it to me — how really tenuous our sanity is.”

On decisions:

“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”

On New York:

“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.”

(Quotes via The Year of Magical Thinking, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and BrainyQuote, Images via, viavia, via, via)

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