Joan Didion

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Joan Didion, Why I Write

I went to a writing seminar where Didion was the guest speaker. I met her afterward, and asked her about overcoming writer's block. It was a brush with greatness. Her advice was sage. She said she doesn't write novels or screenplays or articles. She writes sentences. Don't think about the whole thing, just write one sentence, then another, then another. I use that advice every day. I remember when I finished college, I was eating dinner with my mother. She asked me, now that I had a degree in communications, what was I going to be. I said I wanted to be Joan Didion. My mom looked perplexed. "I thought you would pick a man," she said.

Joan Didion, from “Why I Write”:

Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know about grammar is its infinite power. 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. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange the words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture.

— Joan Didion, Why I Write

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To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away.

Arundhati Roy (Book: The Cost of Living


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