Do word birds live in poetrees?

Chris Bird

“You can become a better writer by immersing yourself in great writing…”

Chris Bird, aka Word Bird, is a creative copywriter for design and business, and a teacher of business writing. Known for making the complex simple, and for bringing focus, passion and fun to projects big and small, her client list includes Orange, John Lewis, English Heritage and BAA. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the V&A and the Design Museum. So, Chris, do word birds live in poetrees?

Yes, though I should probably explain where the phrase comes from, and what it means.

My friend Martin Galton (Creative Director of Snap London, founder of raucous standup poetry night Bang Said the Gun, and previously of BBH and Leagas Delaney) came up with ‘Do word birds live in poetrees?’ when I was setting up Word Bird after winning Orange as a client in 2001. It’s funny and kooky and reflects my belief that you can become a better writer by immersing yourself in great writing.

That’s how I learned. Secondary school in the ‘70s meant brown flared trousers and an inverted snobbery against the teaching of grammar or the classics. And at home the main modality was music: there were few books, and conversations were frequently drowned out by the classical music reverberating through 6’ speakers or being played by my father on his Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano. So to become a word bird I had to create my own ‘poetrees’.

My first was the tent formed by the covers of my bed as I read library books by light of a torch, blue static cracking from pink bri-nylon sheets as I turned the pages. My second was the deep windowsill of my bedroom in our new house: sent to bed for talking back, asking too many questions or anticipating a film’s plot twist, I’d clamber up there with a blanket and a torch, close the thick curtains and lose myself in a book.

Now, the advice I offer students on my writing classes, and clients from design agencies and businesses who want to improve their writing, is to immerse yourself in great writing. Read great novels, subscribe to brilliant blogs, follow talented tweeters, and devour the work of journalists like Caitlin Moran or (the sadly prematurely deceased) AA Gill. And don’t watch crap on TV: watch great shows by talented writers like Vince Gilligan, who brought Walter White, Jesse Finkman and Saul Goodman to life.

Chris Bird, A Curate's Egg
Chris Bird, A Curate's Egg

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