Finding Time but Losing Depth

As a stay-at-home mom, my schedule revolves around my 4-year-old daughter. This often means that my writing time is fragmented. I grab 15 minutes here, a half hour there. I have read tons of blog posts about how to squeeze the most writing time out of your day.

I never used to think I could write this way, but you do what you need to do when faced with reality. So I wring words out of my day, and usually manage to get a decent amount of writing done each day. I’m happy and left with a sense of accomplishment (no matter how small) when I see that at least one of my projects has progressed.

But. (You knew there was a “but,” didn’t you?)

I worry that I am sacrificing depth in this scattered writing style.

Pre-child, I could spend several hours at a time writing. I could “go deep,” getting lost in the world and the character. I would often finish a writing tear and look up, blinking, wondering where I was, what time it was—much like the feeling when you leave a movie theater.

I can’t do that anymore, and I think my writing has suffered. I find it hard to lose myself in my world or character in short spurts of time. No sooner do I feel comfortable than it’s time to leave. And since much of my snatched writing time also involves having my child around, my mommy ear is always listening for cries or yells that might indicate she needs help—or that ominous silence that means I really need to go see what she’s up to. So my full attention is not on my writing.

My biggest struggle at the moment is character. Readers do not connect to my characters. I used to do character well. I suspect that my “stolen time” model of writing is keeping me from plumbing the depth I used to in my characters, keeping me from finding their voices. If I can’t get lost in my characters, how can I expect my readers to?

I have also found that—for me—it is very hard to find that voice in revision when it is not present in the first draft. Character deepening in revision (and I like revising!) has never come out right. Perhaps I’m too caught up in the existing words on the page to want to change them enough to bring the character’s voice to the front. I don’t know.

All I know is I have three options: 1) find larger chunks of time to write (ha!), 2) learn to go deep faster, or 3) learn to deepen character in revision. I’m not sure which will happen. I’m not sure which will be successful. But something’s got to change for me to solve my character problem.

How about you? Do you find that writing in fragmented time lessens your ability to go deep? If you’ve mastered this technique, please share some tips in the comments!

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