Do It Daily: William Stafford and Persistence

William Stafford woke up every morning, seven days a week, at 4 a.m., made himself a cup of instant coffee and a piece of dry toast, and stretched out on his family’s living room couch. There, notebook on lap, he wrote until the sun came up. He wrote a poem a day, a process he describes in the short lyric “Just Thinking”: “Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window. / No cloud, no wind. . . . Let the bucket of memory down into the well, / bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one / stirring. No plans. Just being there.” Stafford was a late bloomer whose first major collection of poems, Traveling Through the Dark, was published when he was forty-eight. It won the National Book Award in 1963. He went on to publish more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose.” — “The Poets Laureate Anthology” edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt

A poem a day led to sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose. That’s what a sustained, persistent ritual of output produces. This kind of output really seduces me, all the more so because his persistence was rooted in delight. I spent a few years writing a great deal of poetry. Stafford’s ritual inspired me and helped me be ‘in it’. This is what doing anything positive daily consciously can do for you. This is at the heart of the 40 Days to Change for Good ritual. When I play music daily I get inside the music, when I don’t some part of me feels outside the garden walls.

What’s important enough for you to do daily at a certain time? What’s your ritual? And is it rooted in delight?

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