Writing Tips From Joan Didion

Joan Didion

Writing Tips From Joan Didion

Joan Didion was born December 5th, 1934, in Sacramento California to Frank Reece and Eduene Didion. She loved books even from a very young age, continuously asking her mother for books on adult topics from the library at as young an age as 5. Joan described herself as a “shy, bookish child”. She became involved in acting and public speaking to force herself to overcome her social anxiety. An Army child, she moved frequently, and continuously felt like a temporary outsider. She graduated from University of California Berkely with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She’d won a writing contest that landed her a job at Vogue for the first seven years after graduation. During this time, she wrote her first book, “Run, River”.

Didion contributed to the style of New Journalism, seeking to communicate facts through narrative storytelling. In 2002, the Saint Louis University Library Associates awarded her the St. Louis Literary Award. In 2007, she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution To American Letters from the National Book Foundation. In 2009, Harvard awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters. You can view her works at Joan Didon’s Author Page at Amazon.

On Editing

“[Editing] happens in the course of writing.

I can’t go on if it’s not pretty much the way that it should be. Towards the beginning of a book, I will go back to page one every day and rewrite. I’ll start out the day with some marked-up pages that I have marked up the night before, and by the time you get to page, maybe, 270, you are not going back to page 1 necessarily anymore, but you’re going back to page 158 and starting over from there.”

On the Act of Writing

“In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions —with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”

On Reasons to Write

“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.”