Joan Didion 0n ‘Why I Write’ Part One

joan didion in chair at desk with typewriter

Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work

“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”

Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:
I
I
I
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.

4 thoughts on “Joan Didion 0n ‘Why I Write’ Part One

  1. Thank you for posting this. I had never read this before and it is an idea I struggle with – being a bully in my writing, especially when I write in second person. I will continue to read these as you post and will remember to keep upfront in my awareness that my writing is my awareness and should be taken only in the moment.

    Like

    • But I think the reader would put down what you write if they felt overcome by any bullying on the writer’s part. It is the bolder writer who gets read if they themselves are brave enough to stand naked in the crowd and speak the truth in written words. You know a fake when what is written doesn’t have a knowing depth to it. One needs to be a bully with their words in order to be brave themselves.

      Here is an alternative definition of bully. It might widen how you see the writer who is being a bully. “stimulate, shake, shake up, excite, stir, arouse, elicit, kindle, evoke, fire, raise, provoke ”

      I would say they aren’t a bad way to be at all when you write. I want to shake things up and stimulate thoughts and feelings, an internal, as well as an external, reaction in what I write. Maybe even be shocking, if it is necessary.

      Words for thought, which you have stimulated in me. Thanks, kiley 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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