Writers’ block in lockdown


POSITIVE CONSEQUENCES People who were once strangers are becoming familiar friendly faces as we meet them on our daily walks, runs and cycles.

With the ‘new normal’ sapping his usual creative energy, Andrew O’Brien takes a break to congratulate everyone

Andrew O'Brien

I’m not much of a list writer. Ask my wife – she texts me what we need in the supermarket because I either don’t write a list, leave the list at home, or just don’t buy everything that’s on the list. Occasionally I write a to-do list and feel proud of myself for doing so. So proud that I feel I’ve achieved enough by writing the list, and promptly decide that I’ve earned a rest, leaving the ‘to-dos’ undone.
I wrote a list today though. At the top of the page was the heading: ‘Topics about which to write a piece for The Mayo News in late May’. When I make a list, I like it to be formal and very clear. Then I wrote my list, but decided to cross reference every potential topic with my back catalogue of previous articles, along with anything I’ve seen online or in a newspaper lately. It made for depressing reading.
Gardening, DIY and painting injuries have all been done before. There’s no point telling students to keep active while studying for exams because, well, there are no exams. Why do your feet hurt when you wear sandals on holidays? Should you keep exercising while on your holidays? Don’t worry, you won’t be going on holidays. Are footballers more likely to get injured on the hard grounds? Not if they aren’t playing football. Do you need to take extra precaution when exercising in the warm weather? It has cooled down though, hasn’t it - we’ve even had the heat on.
Should we encourage kids to take their shoes off more often? Should we all take our shoes off more often? I don’t know about you, but other than to go for a run or to the supermarket, I haven’t worn shoes since March.
Sore necks and backs from commuting and sitting in the office? Who’s commuting? Nobody wants a lecture on posture when they’re working from the kitchen table, trying to home school and prepare dinner all at the same time.
Suggestions on keeping active in lockdown? If that hasn’t been written four million times with the same basic advice, I’m not here. How hard should you push? Written it. How often? Read it. How far from home, and with whom? If it wasn’t on the page before this, turn over and find it on the next one.
Exercises for fitness? Mobility? Pain relief? Stress relief? Exercise for weight loss? Exercise to improve sleep? Sleeping more to improve physical performance? Have we been around this circle already?
What to write about then? The best I can come up with is, ironically, a bit of a rehash of something I wrote a touch over five years ago. A congratulations of sorts to the people of Mayo in general and Westport in particular.
Over the last few weeks, every time someone in our house has been for a run, walk or cycle, there’s been a strange excitement over seeing other people. Plenty of these people we would never have recognised, now we see them a couple of times a week, doing their own walk, run or cycle. Everyone nods, mentions the weather, and maybe makes a small joke about our shared but individual situations.
We’re all in this together, and we’re all doing what we can. For plenty of people, a bit of exercise is as exciting as it gets of late. It would be very easy to be dragged down by negativity, or take to the couch and the bottle, but it seems most people in our radius, and I’m sure all across the county and island are attacking it positively.
We’re up. We’re moving. We’re staying healthy and we’re doing it with a smile on our faces. Well done Westport. Well done Mayo. Well done Ireland. There’s light at the end of this tunnel. Hopefully that will give me something to write about.

Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.