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Joan Didion’s death and my own writing

The author Joan Didion died in Manhattan on Thursday at age 87. I was unexpectedly moved by her death and spent the past few days thinking and learning a lot about her. Didion was an inspiration for many writers because she so seemingly naturally excelled at everything related to writing – from novels to journalism to screenwriting.

Her death led me to think about my own writing and has given me a bit of inspiration. Three years of writing for the Connection has taught me a lot about getting a story out quickly but also put me in a bit of a rut.  I resolve to do more creative writing in 2022 – a series of random thoughts such as this one and hopefully some long-form local news stories.

I checked out a few of Didion’s many works including “On Keeping a Notebook” in which she talks about how she develops ideas for her stories and one of her many obituaries.

I was reminded of her sometimes brutal honesty in as I read her report on “The Women’s Movement” from 1972. That one begins: “To make an omelette you need not only those broken eggs but someone “oppressed” to break them.”

Her writing captures the American experience around its edges and is eerily relevant today.

Didion is not an easy read – you have to parse every sentence. But she’s worth it and she’s reminded me I should try to read more. I’m often too lazy or too tired and end up watching TV instead. 

Speaking of which, the documentary film “The Center Will Not Hold,” directed by Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne and available on Netflix, is one of the better ways to learn about her creative, eventful, elegant, but also tragic, life.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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  • Appreciated your comments on the complexity and value of Joan Didion’s writing. She was a mentor to me in my approach to journalism. Thank you!

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