The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published. You’ll never get where you want to be that way, I tell them.

This is a central theme of Bird by Bird. Lamott is eager to teach her students about the craft and joys of writing, but her students continually interrupt her with questions about publishing. Many are so fixated on the goal of publishing that they don’t have patience for the basics of writing. Lamott laments the fact that her students place undue importance on being published. She notes that publishing has its perks, but it rarely makes people happy. She repeatedly brings the focus back to writing.