What Joan Didion Was To Me

Some writers you read because you like their plots or their dialogue. Others because you connect with their spirit. This was what Joan Didion was to me. When I was a young woman, of course, I was awed by her writing. Later, when I adopted my oldest son, I loved reading what she wrote about her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo. She had an entry in a children’s book about adoption and we used to read that every night. Her daughter died in 2005 and two years later my son died. Then she became for me a touchstone. I looked to her for grace and wisdom and honesty. Always honesty. When Joan Didion died in December, I mourned her as I would a friend. A writer can’t ask for more than that.

Joan Didion wrote so many wise things, but here are a couple of my favorites:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
― Joan Didion, The White Album: Essays

“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, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

“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

“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Do you have a favorite Joan Didion book? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com

One comment

  1. Her writing was beautiful and wise. She’ll be missed for sure. You pulled out some great quotes. I especially like the waking up at 4 am one the best. Who hasn’t;t spent a sleepless hour thinking about something we shouldn’t have said or done?

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