What Would Joan Didion Do?

“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

When I read on Twitter last Thursday that Joan Didion had died, I was shocked. I kept on thinking, Joan Didion is dead. I don’t know why my brain kept on repeating that sentence as my body began to process the information that one of the women who inspired me to start writing had passed away.

Didion was 87. Her death hit me in an unexpected way. She played a significant part on why I began writing in my early 20s. I was assigned to read her essay Why I Write in a creative writing class in college the first week of summer semester in 2014. A quote from that essay has been on the header of my blog for several years now.

Didion processed culture, grief, mental illness with honesty. She never shied away from hard topics. She wrote about difficult situations as way to process them. I write because I too want to figure out how I’m feeling about something. Writing is a coping mechanism during rough times. It helps me makes sense of situations and emotions. She taught me how to write without shying away from my feelings. Being honest about a topic helps the reader connect to your work.

Her writing and voice has stayed with me throughout the years. I’ve turned to her books and essays time and time again as tough times in my life and in society have happened. She’s been a touchstone for me. Her Netflix documentary is my favorite documentary. I get something new each time I watch it. I watched it again yesterday and felt a sense of hope wash over me.

I will forever appreciate Joan Didion’s writing. How she used language and voice to tell difficult stories. She captured the times in a society that felt uncertain, much like how it feels today. The way she told her internal stories with her own struggles of mental illness and relationships. She’s an icon for a reason and she will be remembered as one.

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