Friday, January 6, 2012


My last post was about how hard it is to work the truth into a good story.  

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” 

I didn’t say that - Mark Twain did.

He was the guy who has arguably already written The Great American Novel ('The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'.) He was also regarded as the greatest American humorist of his age and Faulkner even called him the ‘father of American literature.’ 

He was also a very smart guy.

Here’s five of the things he said that I think are good guidelines for life.

1. “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

It’s a great saying, it has a lot of bravura about it, but it’s hard to do.

I think it’s not just that we get so caught up in the responsibilities of living that we forget to live - though sure, that’s part of it. 

But I think sometimes we also unknowingly create our own roadblocks for ourselves. Why?

Here’s a thought; how many of us want things so bad but privately, perhaps even unconsciously, tell ourselves we don’t fit the mold of the kind of person that great stuff happens to?

My very first novel, a crime thriller, was a huge success in the UK and Australia. My publishers, one of the big boys in London publishing, were hoping I would follow it up. Instead I wrote a fairly old fashioned war story and all the momentum was lost.

At the time I told myself it was artistic freedom. These days I call it self-sabotage. Looking back, I see I've done it to myself many times in many different ways. Am I the only one - or does that ring a bell with anyone else out there?

2. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Look at Keith Richards. He looks like they just found him in a dumpster at the back of the recording studio. Surely he’s too old to be playing rock music? Well Keef doesn't think so.

Look at Ryan Giggs. At 38 he’s been playing top flight football in England for twenty years, from the midfield, where most players are done by the time they’re 30. He’s just been handed another season’s contract.

George Bernard Shaw broke his leg at 96 - he fell out of a tree he was trimming in his backyard. Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine Chapel. Harland Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at 62.

For more great examples see Debra Eve’s blog at

3. Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”

This is a hard one. But the truth is, the longer you spend wallowing in a swamp the harder it is to get out. I’m not preaching; I’m one of the worst at this. 

But I also know what he says here is right; you can’t afford the luxury of the wallow. Keep your eyes on the prize. 

And Mark Twain should know; he lost the equivalent of seven and a half million dollars - all his royalties from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - backing new technology and went bankrupt. But even though he was not obliged to do so, he took to the road on a world speaking tour and earned back every cent he owed and then some.

4.  “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”

Well this sure is hard too. But isn’t it also one of the secrets of the new social media? As Kristen Lamb says; we are not alone. Sometimes the best way to get over bad news is to RT someone else’s stuff or write a nice review on Amazon. Pay it forward and sometimes it comes back, in surprising ways.

photograph: Billy Hathorn
5. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Exploring, dreaming, discovering; this is a big risk. There will be people standing on the dock saying don’t do it and they may be right; so many dreamers have been shipwrecked. 

But by my dead reckoning it’s more disappointing to stay on the shore and die wondering. And every now and then someone sails off to find their brave new world. If you don’t go, you won’t ever know. 

So do it. Dare to dream. The only thing regret you'll ever have is if you don't. 

If you liked my post, please give me a thumbs up on Stumbleupon!

And the answer to the question in the last post; it was the Golden Triangle. 

Debra Kristi sent me the right answer and she wins the first three books in the five book Opium series. Congratulations Debra!

Another free eBook for anyone who can tell me what a five book series is called! Email me at colin underscore falconer underscore author at hotmail dot com.

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  1. Hey Colin, how are you?

    I love Mark Twain! And fear is a rough thing to get in front of. But I just jumped into Bob Mayer's business for authors class for the next two months just in case I actually do have a book that is good enough to put out there. Lol! Working on it though.

    Hey, I just got a Kindle. I'm ready to collect on that raincheck anytime. Thanks. :)

  2. This post really hit home with me, especially numbers one and five. I have recently realized that I am getting in my own way a lot. It sucks to realize that I am the one standing between me and my dreams. So, I signed up for a class called "Getting out of your own way." Sometimes I need help making changes. I also discovered a new city that I absolutely love, so I decided that I am going to move there. I'm going to take the risk and move forward. Thanks for the inspiration, Colin.

  3. Terrific post! Your number five speaks to me.

  4. I love the post and I love Mark Twain! Mark Twain was a very wise man. Thanks for sharing his wisdom, Colin. I agree. These are great guidelines.

  5. Hi Karen, you'll love Bob's workshop. He's awesome and I think one of the best teachers on the internet right now. And he's got the results to prove it. Glad to you've got a kindle! I'll be in touch!

  6. Thanks so much for your comment Emma. That sounds great - I wish I'd got out of my own way 20 years ago, but I didn't know I was getting IN my way till now. I wish you the very best with the move and with having the courage to take the risk. I think like Mark Twain says the only thing we can ever regret at the end of our lives is NOT taking a risk. Good luck.

  7. Thanks Pat and thanks Haley. I'm glad you found him as inspiring as I did. That number 5 is profound, isn't it?