The Persian Flaw (Or, Why We Don’t Have to Be Perfect When We Write)

A few years ago, I chatted with a then-colleague about my intention to re-launch myself as a writer. 

Up to that point, most people had either told me how crazy they thought I was, leaving a well-paid, full-time HR job to scribble for a living, or they’d congratulated me for “being braver than I am”.

But this particular colleague just looked a bit thoughtful.  Then, he told me about a (really good) idea he’d had for a book.

“Why don’t you start writing it?” I asked.

“Because I’m shit at spelling and grammar,” he said, suddenly addressing the inside of his coffee mug.  “I’ve got a friend who says if you can’t spell, you shouldn’t write”.

I’ve heard these words, or general variations of them, many times since.  Enough to show that many people are scared to put pen to paper not because they haven’t got ideas, but because they’re worried about spelling mistakes, or a misplaced apostrophe tripping them up.

It makes me wonder how many compelling stories we’re missing out on, just because their potential authors are confused about the uses of “there”, “they’re”, and “their”.


I saw these exact words scribbled onto a piece of paper once, stuck to the door of a Christmas discount shop. 

Spelling-and-grammar-wise, that makeshift sign was a complete disaster. 

But it still did the job, in that it told potential shoppers what to expect inside.  It also did an extra job of making people pay attention; far more than they would have done had it been perfect.

(While ultra-professional writing does need to be error-free, it has been known for marketing professionals to run campaigns that feature deliberate spelling mistakes, just because they’re guaranteed to grab attention!)

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve spotted typos in published bestsellers, or in national newspaper articles (The Guardian is still affectionately known as The Grauniad, for its frequent early misprints and typos).  I’m not outraged by them, and I don’t think their authors shouldn’t have bothered writing the books or articles in the first place. 

I just carry on reading.

Don’t you?

If you’re that worried about spelling and grammar mistakes tripping you up, get someone to proofread your work for you (I know some excellent proofreaders should you feel the need to contact a professional – try Matt Pinnock or Janice Gilbert, both of them excellent mistake-spotters, and very nice people).

Whatever you do: don’t let your fear of not being perfect stop you from giving writing a go.  Give yourself permission to do it anyway, and see what happens.

The Persian Flaw

I recently heard about a legend involving ancient Persian rug makers, who wove an intentional flaw into each carpet they made. 

The idea of this was to remind us of our flawed humanness, because only God is capable of perfection.

I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the idea of celebrating our flawed humanness.  For that reason, I’ve decided to leave a couple of mistakes in my forthcoming book, I’d Rather Get a Cat and Save the Planet: Conversations with Child-free Women.

I’m immensely proud of this book, and the fact that it’s not going to be perfect only makes me prouder. 

Because neither am I, and neither are you.

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