I like that Robert DeNiro Quote, even if you don’t…

So, I’m putting this here as a reminder.  Like a piece of string around my finger.  Inevitably, when you post a quote or meme that discusses the often-difficult emotional roller coaster of writing, some self-titled authority on the craft comes along and tells you you’ve got it all wrong.  THEY don’t go through pitfalls, painful doubt, and angst as part of THEIR process.  And therefore, those of us who DO are somehow deficient.  Well — piss off.

I encountered this most recently when a fair number of us started circling the old Robert DeNiro quote on the mind of the writer around social media.  It comes up from time to time (as all the writerly-writer type quotes do) and it makes it rounds.  MOST of us appreciate that sort of sentiment, take encouragement from it, and roll on.  But there’s always that ONE PERSON in every room who acts offended by it.   And they’re usually not shy about putting their entire ass on display in the process.

I saw this particular quote cycling down my Facebook feed last night and I shared it as well.  Because it certainly does resonate with a good many of us.  It’s a simple share, and a simple quote.  A way we tell each other, “We all have days like this.  Keep on shining, you crazy diamond.”  At least, that’s how 99% of us take it.



And… Cue the “objection.”  In this case, it came in the form of a fellow author actually replying with a link back to his OWN blog post about why he hates that quote so much.  I had originally planned on linking to that article, because I hate blindly fisking someone (it seems unfair) — but then I reached the end of his blog post and pretty much shit blood laughing.  And I quote:


“If writing makes you angsty, how about using my book Storyteller Tools to fill the gaps in your skills before deciding to wallow in artistic misery?”


Ah.  The sales pitch.  Got it.  So, no — I won’t be giving that author the signal boost or clicks even by accident by posting a link to that absurd article in this post.  If you really want to find it, go Google it.  I don’t promo vultures.  ( I did reply to him spamming my thread on Facebook, however, so said-author at least knows we don’t, um, agree — I’ve included that below for The Archives).

So, after reading through said-author’s take on how all these feelings are rubbish and such, this was where I come out on the topic.  For the record, this is ALWAYS where I come out on the topic.



The article began:


“The stupid De Niro quote about writers is doing the rounds of Facebook:

This kind of thing makes me cross…. [insert long, narcissistic rant here + sales pitch for said-author’s book on how to be a better writer]”


Ahem…. Okay…. So… Normally I wouldn’t give a snotty post like that the time of day, but I’m feeling particularly surly this morning.

First – I have NEVER met a writer who couldn’t identify with a quote like this one you hate so much at least on SOME level. Never. Not one. Until now.

Second – When the rest of us post a quote like that, it’s meant as an expression of solidarity and encouragement — a way of saying “You’re not alone, fellow writerly-types. We all have days like this. Now, back the keyboard we go.”

With regard to EVERY WRITER I’VE EVER KNOWN, 95% of our craft is joy (even when it’s frustrating, disappointing, and difficult) and 5% is us sitting in our chairs staring at the last 100,000 words we’ve written thinking “My God, what have I done with the last six months of my life? I’m such a worthless hack.” Then we get over it, get up the next morning, and get back to our work.

Third – In your blog post, you pretty much come out and call any of us who CAN identify with this sentiment misguided jackasses who just don’t understand the craft the way YOU do. Because YOU don’t experience these feelings in the course of your process. Which you attribute to (and I quote):

“…I am also mentally robust — which is probably just good genetic fortune and lucky parenting…”

That’s a level of narcissism that would make Roman Emperors and Donald Trump cringe.

Fourth – Your entire blog rant (thanks for spamming my thread with it uninvited, by the way) is predicated on the notion that the Robert DeNiro quote you hate so much is stating “…you can only be a GOOD writer if you’re messed up.” Which isn’t present in word, context, or even freakin’ implied in that quote.

It’s a quote. A simple one that states “sometimes this is very hard.”

Fifth – And I quote your blog once more:


“… This may be statistically normal, but it’s not necessary and I wish they could come to some accommodation with whatever makes them so. Quotes like the De Niro one are unhelpful because they normalise being miserable…”

Wow. I’d love to hear your take on depression then. Bet it’s a real hoot. If your blog post on DeNiro is any indicator, I’m sure it would contain helpful advice such as “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “are you getting enough exercise and vegetables?”

None of us need your permission to have a day when the doubt hurts and becomes discouraging.

I won’t even get into your bizarre dissection of how gender relates to the issue, except to say, “Um, no, Author X — none of us have down days and feel bad because we think it will make us feel more masculine with regard to our profession.” Seriously? Where did you even come up with that?

You got ONE thing right, though — Somewhere in there you mentioned that the angst and doubt seems to be a hindrance to the writer’s craft, rather than fuel for it. YOU BET YOUR ASS.

There’s a reason MOST OF US go out of our way to express solidarity and encourage each other — particularly when it comes to pushing through the rough patches.

And finally — The final sentence in your blog post pretty much says it all, Author X:


“If writing makes you angsty, how about using my book Storyteller Tools to fill the gaps in your skills before deciding to wallow in artistic misery?”

Ah. And there’s the sales pitch.

Thanks for stopping by. Here’s your coat, the door is over there.


For the rest of us, who really DO sometimes get our emotional asses kicked and our hearts broken doing this gig — *solidarity, yo – keep on fighting*



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