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Proving the power of positivity

Living

Writer Tomás Coimín, who was paralysed after a fall two years ago, will launch his debut novel next week

Interview
Ciara Moynihan

Tomas CoiminTomás Coimín’s debut novel, ‘Ignominy’, will be launched in The Linenhall Arts Centre on May 5. To have a book published is a huge achievement for anyone; for Coimín, it’s even more. It’s a testament to this author’s stamina, positivity and determination, and proof of his refusal to let a serious challenge get in the way of, well, a good story. For Coimín is not just any writer, he is a writer who became paralysed from the neck down.
Originally from Thurles, Co Tipperary, Coimín moved to Mayo three years ago after he met ‘a beautiful young lady’ from Belmullet. He enjoyed writing (up to an impressive 10,000 words a day) and living days to the full. “My life before the incident was busy, walking four miles a day or cycling, reading, writing and visiting woods and forests. I love being out and about in nature,” Coimín explains.
Then, a year later, at the age of 57, his life changed in an instant. “I was living up in Bangor Erris, and I was on my own. In the middle of the night I got up to walk out to the bathroom and I fell, hit the wall on the way down, and broke my spine,” he tells The Mayo News.
Now, Coimín must rely on others for the most simple of tasks – something he admits has brought him to a dark place.
“When one is thrown head first into a totally different way of life it literally takes quite a while to adjust to everything, sometimes even wishing for an end that doesn’t come. It’s humiliating and depressing that I have to depend on carers for everything, but fortunately they are all very good. I feel I am blessed to be in Cuan Chaitriona Nursing Home [in Castlebar] right now precisely because they are excellent.”
Before moving to Cuan Chaitriona, Coimín spent time in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire. During his rehabilitation, he was encouraged to go back to his writing and introduced to voice-activated software, an onscreen keyboard and a Kensington Mouse, which he can use when strapped to his hand. Within seven months, he was writing again.
He returned to ‘Ignominy’, a story he had been working on prior to the accident. “The book is a tale of vigilantism, abuse and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure,” Coimín explains. “It’s set in Virginia, USA (where he had been living when he first started the book). I was going to just write a short story, and suddenly the story took on a life of its own. I’ve been working on it for the last seven years. About three or four years ago I thought it was finished, so I sent it off to a publisher, but it got rejected so I left it alone.
“Then in 2014 I started reworking it. In February of this year, I sent it off to Amazon to go down the self-publishing route, and that’s going to work out just fine.”
Coimín also writes articles on a broad range of topics, from mental health and spiritual wellbeing to philosophy and politics, publishing them online at articlesbase.com and ezinearticles.com.  “Just about every area you can think of I’ve written something on it! It really keeps me going. You can easily get into a rut when you lose the use of your hands … so having all this writing to do is great,” he says.
“What [also] keeps me going right now is music, gospel music, in particular, reading books online and doing my utmost to keep positive, even I can no longer go for a physical walk about. My faith definitely keeps me in great spirits.”
Coimín believes his experience could be useful to others who find their lives suddenly and dramatically altered. “My advice to someone whose life has been traumatised by an unexpected event would be to not despair, surround yourself with positive people. Develop your hobbies and get into something you really enjoy, no matter how silly it may appear to be.
“And definitely don’t give up, because it’s very easy to. Thoughts of suicide can be very strong. But just work, work, work at it. Surrounding yourself with positive people is extremely important. Don’t accept negativity from anybody. I don’t tolerate it at all, and I’d encourage others not to either.”
Looking to the future, the prolific Coimín has four more books on the boil. “I just need to pick one of them and get it going!” he laughs. “One of them is about mental health. I’m bipolar myself – you can imagine what that’s like, the depression side, dealing with this incapacity – but I just work and work on my optimism, and I think I’m doing a good job of it.” It would be hard to find someone who disagreed.
Does he have any tips for aspiring authors? “Three things,” he says, without hesitation. “Join a writers’ group, meditate, write a page a day.
“I was in a writers’ group when I lived in Tipperary – Clonmel Writers’ Group – and they were really helpful. I’d recommend it to anybody. Also, GMIT do a creative writers’ course as well. It might be a good idea to sign up for a course like that.”
When it comes to writing daily, his advice is simple: “Just sit and write anything that comes into your mind. Don’t worry about editing it. It can always be reworked later.”
Coimín has been practising meditation for about 15 years, and it remains a huge part of his life. “I think meditation is extremely important for all of us. Everybody meditates every day, but they meditate on a lot of negative stuff, on negativity. If we could only rechannel our minds to focus on the good stuff…. That takes practice, but if you start it for ten minutes a day, you’ll eventually work up to 24 hours a day, and that will really help you in everything you do in life.”
Tomás Coimín’s personal story, his infectious zeal for life and his admirable passion for writing are as humbling as they are inspiring. “It has not been easy,” the author admits, “but thanks to my faith, I have been able to conquer my disability because my mind has not been damaged, and so I will move forward with enthusiasm.” And, one wagers, bucket loads of positivity.

‘Ignominy’, by Tomás Coimín, will be launched in The Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, on Thursday, May 5, at 7.30pm. All are welcome. ‘Ignominy’ is available to purchase at Amazon and at Castle Book Shop, Castle Street, Castlebar.

 

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