“Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.” – Joan Didion
Born in Sacramento, CA, on this date in 1934, Didion has blended a career in journalism, creative writing, nonfiction and screenwriting, earning many accolades along the way, particularly for her acute attention to fine detail and honing each and every sentence into a work of art.
Didion views the structure of the sentence as essential to what she is conveying in her work. In a New York Times article, Why I Write, Didion wrote, "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...The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind...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."
Didion started writing at age 5 though she claims that she never saw herself as a writer until after being published. She read everything she could get her hands on after learning how to read, even adult books by authors like Ernest Hemingway, who she has idolized throughout her career. She recommends, of course, reading the great writers like Hemingway and James Joyce as a good tutoring in the writing arts.
“In many ways,” she noted, “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.”
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