Never Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Old Proverb

No, it’s not a Mark Twain quote – or at least not one that’s been backed up by reliable resources.

If you Google this proverb, you’ll come up with plenty of sites that attribute it to Mark Twain (Goodreads, for one); however, I haven’t been able to find any reliable proof that he actually said it. And while I’d like to be able to say that it’s his quote (there’s something emotionally satisfying about quoting Mark Twain), I like to at least try to use accurate quotes and attributions.

What I did find is articles about how often Mark Twain is misquoted. There’s a whole website called Unquotable: Mark Twain, dedicated humorously to making up quotes that people will believe are his (not very helpful but interesting). The best actual research I found was compiled in a Huffington Post article called “That’s What He Said: Quoting Mark Twain.” The article lists various resources for checking whether the line you’re using was actually written by or said by Mark Twain. Some even let you search his letters and written works.

Well, I searched through those for this quote, and it was not in there. I looked through their lists of quotes by topic, and it still wasn’t there. I even did a Google Book search (a good way to verify quotes by writers, by the way), and none of the books that came up were his (or even that old). One of them, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, happens to be on my bookshelf (I guess I should’ve started there), and although it traces the line back to several variations and sources, none of those sources are Mark Twain.

Of course, at this point, the idea that Mark Twain said this is so firmly entrenched in the internet that there’s no changing it, true or false. Which is also kind of funny in context with the quote, isn’t it?


Be Careful How Often You Tell Yourself “I Can’t”

Tell yourself that you can't enough, and you won't. Em T. Wytte Quote

Are you willing to lock the door between you and your dreams?



A Louis L’ Amour-Style Metaphor for Writing

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” -- Louis L'Amour quote

Even if you get a motion activated one, you still have to wave.

Turn on that faucet. Flood the world with words, submerge it with stories, and immerse it in ideas. It’s ready. It’s full of minds ready to soak up every single drop.

Don’t make us wait. Start now.


It Can Be Hard To Be Sure If I’m Quoting Or Misquoting

Yesterday, I used a quote from Tolkien about escape and fairy tales. I came across it when double-checking another quote that is commonly accredited to Tolkien:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?… If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

It’s a great quote, but is it a Tolkien quote or not? Goodreads says that it is, and thetolkienist says that it most certainly is not – it’s a quote from Ursula Le Guin referencing the Tolkien quote I used yesterday. Since thetolkienist cites a specific origin for each quote, I’m more inclined to believe thetolkienist (Especially given how often some of Tolkien’s works are commonly misquoted around the internet…).

What I don’t understand is how people misquote like that the very first time. Do they do it on purpose? It seems unlikely that they would have a quote like that memorized, which means they’d be looking at a printed source with the correct author. Right?

On purpose or not, it’s hard to trust quotes that you find online. I always try to verify them with multiple sites (preferably ones that give the original context), but even that’s no guarantee. I feel most comfortable posting quotes from published books of quotations (ones that have to go through editors and be verified [theoretically]) or that I’ve checked myself.

But there are so many wonderful quotes online that haven’t made it into a book yet. It’s really hard to resist finding them online. I guess the best I can do is to check them before crediting them to one person or another.

I can only wish that more people would do the same.