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Advice: Lower Your Standards

I live in William Stafford country. His words and work permeate this place. And it is a goodly inheritance.

His collection on writing called Crossing Unmarked Snow came out while I was in school, so it became our unofficial textbook. Come January, I think it might be my first re-read of the new decade.

Often when I’m writing I hear his advice over my shoulder: if you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going. I think sometimes when people encounter that axiom, they focus on being stuck or lowering their standards. But I think our attention should be to keep going.

That’s where the magic starts.

In the daily return. The simple companionship of attention and a notebook. A way to discover what we didn’t know.

Click here to see all the Listening to My Life :: Homeschooling an MFA in Poetry posts.


  1. It was incredibly enlivening when I began to allow myself the use of assonance in my song lyrics and got unshackled from a thousand contrivances imposed by my prior insistence on perfect rhyme.

    1. Recently I read something (maybe in Roethke?) about every word being more like every other word than like silence…and in that, every word rhyming with each other.

      1. “Words move, music moves
        Only in time…
        Words, after speech, reach
        Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
        Can words or music reach
        The stillness…”
        “Burnt Norton” V

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