Friday Writing Experiment No. 42: Resolve Nothing


Today I want
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it.

Thus concludes the poem ‘New Year’s Day’ by Kim Addonizio, a poem I feel is most apt for this time when status updates and news feeds grow cluttered with new year’s resolutions and cheerleading affirmations. I’m not really a fan … It all gets a bit too pushy and NaNoWriMo for me. Why make a fuss about a specific point in time? Why not instead make something meaningful that works for every day of your life?

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across an article called ‘Forget Setting Goals’. I thought it was another of those cheesy Interweb click-through things, but it offered useful insights in distinguishing between getting things done through setting goals and getting things done through establishing systems and regular practice. We can have both, of course, but the systems are what get the job done, and perhaps that’s where we need to apply ourselves most heartily.

It also made me think about the somewhat grasping character of the very goal-oriented culture we reside in, and how that often gets in the way of the authentic experiences that are probably what life’s really all about at its best: everyday practices, everyday joys, surprises, serendipities, moments of being.

This week we got our first dog. He’s rapidly become one of our everyday joys (even though his favourite chew toys are our socks, with our feet in them). We are well-prepared and well-researched and even neurotic dog owners/guardians/companions, but all that research and planning and neurosis cannot ready you for that moment of being when you bring the sleeping puppy home in your arms. Or for that moment when you are picking up dog shit from a wet back yard. A week ago, I’d never picked up dog shit. Up until a week ago, I was neurotic about picking up dog shit. Up until a week ago I’d been put off having a dog by the very idea of picking up dog shit. I wondered how other people did it, and what possessed them to swing little (big) bags of it merrily as they strolled through the park with their Chihuahuas (Great Danes).

But now, I know something of picking up dog shit. You just get on with it. You just do it. It’s a system, a practice, a moment of being (or maybe a moment of doing …). It doesn’t need a goal. It just needs to be done.

I’m not sure if all this connects or makes sense, but picking up dog shit has meant more to me than any resolution this new year. Kim Addonizio’s poem might be a more lyrical embodiment of this sentiment. She resolves nothing. She just resides in that moment. This is now officially one of my favourite poems.

For this week’s writing experiment: write a poem in the style of ’New Year’s Day’ in which you allow yourself to resolve nothing but simply observe what is around you, making something potent of it all. You might want to give yourself a field trip this weekend in order to give yourself a finite five minutes to write about. You might want to use all the sense experiences in your poem. You should probably be concrete and specific in your use of image and language.

Have a good weekend, and be joyful in whatever shit you pick up too. And meanwhile enjoy Charlie’s moment of being in the garden in the picture above. It’s quite something to behold a tiny little beast’s first experience of the outdoors. He’s a skinny little thing who doesn’t have much meat or fur on him, so he does not like the cold.

But this morning he didn’t run indoors at toilet time. He sat himself down, and he pulled himself upright, curling his tail and most regal in his whippety stance, and he sniffed the air, and he listened to the robin, and he stared into the winter sunlight through his big blue eyes. He soaked it all up, lifting his little face to the blessing of the world.

He needed no resolution for that. He just had to be.

Dogs let themselves be, and maybe we can learn something from that.


  1. Jessica Russell

    We certainly can learn from them in that respect – from a fellow shit picker. It’s very exciting when new good people join the ranks.

    Charlie has just made me think of Travels with Charlie (so very long ago now). Surely I am now old enough to re-read almost afresh. His picture has also made me think of my own fawn skinny lurcher. Sighthounds like to look at things – a lot – sometimes just before they are off in hot pursuit. Good luck, enjoy him. Thank you for the exercise and Happy New Year.

    • Andrew

      Thank *you*, Jessica. Of course, that Charley: I’d forgotten, but must read too. It’s one Steinbeck I’ve not read. He was one of the first grown-up writers I read. And sighthounds are such a revelation already. This is our first – our first dog since our childhoods. I can’t believe how exciting it is. Can’t wait till he can go walks. Tho that thing about pursuit is slightly terrifying. I gather that whippets do have good recall, tho. What’s your lurcher called?

      I hope you get to write a lurchery moment of being this weekend (if the storms don’t mess it up too much … this little sighthound is not fond of the rain, I can already tell).

      Happy New Year!

      • Jessica Russell

        Just read your excellent post on voice and narration – thank you. I had seen the Andrew Lownie link earlier this week and was intrigued by the third person plea.

        My lurcher is called Rudi (surname Nureyev – named by the rescue charity). He was picked up after being knocked down in Navan and is saluki/greyhound as far as it is possible to tell. The joy when they run… makes life worth living. I’ve got a good pursuit story somewhere – I’ll look it out. Main thing is to keep your wits about you, hope for the best and keep a sense of humour at all times – even when those about you etc…

        • Andrew

          Yes! I am an absolute convert to the sighthound. This little whippet has only been out for walks for a few days now: he only got his second jabs last week. He was quite trembly about walking the streets, needing a drag and a tug, but he gathers courage by the day, and this afternoon he was going pretty briskly. I look forward (with some trepidation) to his off-leash runs. And meanwhile he makes do with zoomies in the hallway. Sense of humour a must: if anything teaches you pretty instant patience, it’s living with a puppy.

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