Circuit Breaker

That’s the latest COVID-19 term our health authority has come out with. Circuit breaker. And the circuit we need to break is ourselves. COVID-19 cases have suddenly risen well beyond expected or previous levels. Yes, it’s getting wintery and the virus seems to like the cold, wet weather. But the cases coming in now are clearly arising through higher personal interaction: gym classes that are perhaps a little lax in physical distancing or mask wearing or cleaning down between classes or people; events that, even if outside, attract more people than planned; parties and events in people’s homes, many stemming from an overambitious guest list at Thanksgiving or Hallowe’en. Poker nights. Receptions held in private homes because they are too big for the banquet halls to accept, and receptions at banquet halls that exceed allowable numbers. Larger numbers attending places of worship. We are all being just a little too social.

Not a huge change for me, really. I am already resigned to unsocial socializing, but no more run/walk club. Household socializing only, and thankfully I like my husband a lot and never run out of things to say or do at home, but no more visiting my parents for coffee, even if we sit physically distant. Interestingly, there are no cases arising from restaurants or small retail outlets, so they seem to have their act together. I can still get to my pilates class, but there is only the teacher and me and it’s not exactly high-impact cardio. So far public transport at the right time of day works pretty well – and everyone (pretty much) is acting well, although there are a number of masks worn under noses which defeats the purpose. In the lobby of my pilates’ teacher’s building I saw a woman sitting, maskless, scrolling through her phone not 2 feet away form a big sign saying “No loitering in lobby” I bit my lip, but questioned “It’s none of my business. Is it my business? I don’t work in the building. I don’t manage the building. But should I have said anything? Everyone is so touchy right now!

Circuit breakers are usual for all sorts of reasons, not just trying to slow down a virus or – literally – to reset the electrical circuit following a blown fuse. Metaphorically, it can be good to stop, revaluate, focus. Why won’t this lid fit on this jar??? Try as I might it won’t fit – ugh! Oh, now that I stop and look at it, I see it is the wrong lid. That sort of thing happens a lot in this house.

It is especially useful when writing. My character will not go where I want her to go and say what I want her to say? It sounds stilted, fake, inauthentic. So, I go away for an hour or a week. And when I come back, it’s so clear. This dialogue and journey should be from the cat’s point of view! Of course! It’s so obvious! And voila, barrier removed. Circuit break successful. 

It isn’t always so easy, just putting the cat in place of the person. Sometimes I just do not have the right sort of character for the role I envision. Or I don’t understand her – I can’t see her clearly. It might be fatigue, or a lack of clarity, but I have had it happen enough times to recognize that something deep inside just isn’t right, and my subconscious is telling me to stop, and take the writing in a different direction. I try different ways to break the circuit:

  • Leave that part of the story alone and start writing another part
  • Do an exercise or two to see if I can get to know that character better. What is her backstory? Describe her. Where would she go to eat, shop, exercise, study?
  • Once I can “see” her better, write a conversation she’d have with her mother/boss/bestie and let her put the words into my brain instead of the other way round.
  • Try replacing her with another character
  • Try replacing the situation

Or I just go for a long walk, read a book, and eat some chocolate.