I subscribe to the Guide to Literary Agents newsletter, and last month they asked about writers who write only when inspired vs. writers who write every day. Is there a need to write every day, or should we just write when inspired?
For me, there are two sides to this question. 1) Sitting down to write even when you're not inspired. 2) The actual ability to sit down and write without any other obligations getting in the way. These have two very different answers, so I want to tackle them separately.
1) Sitting down to write even when you're not inspired.
I believe in making inspiration come to me rather than waiting around for it to fall in my lap. So, I'd rather sit down and get to work even if inspiration is being elusive. However, I don't believe in forcing the words. If you sit down to write and it takes twenty minutes to get three crappy sentences on the page, then something is wrong.
The standard argument used here is that you can't revise an empty page, so bad words are better than no words. But I disagree. When I write something truly awful, I almost always end up deleting it and starting over (because it's just plain too horrible to revise). So, when I get myself into a situation like this, I stop writing. BUT, I don't walk away. Instead, I'll do some brainstorming exercises, journaling from the MC's perspective, or other tasks to help me figure out why the story isn't flowing properly. Once I figure it out, then I can get back to writing.
So, I think that instead of sitting down and writing every day, one should sit down and do something related to writing: brainstorming, planning, research, journaling, etc.
2) The actual ability to sit down and write without any other obligations getting in the way.
As much as I would love to write every day, I can't. I have a family, and I want to spend time with them. Because of everyone's schedules, it's not possible for me to carve out writing time every single day. So, I write on the days that I can, and don't write on the days I can't. For this reason alone, I don't have the luxury of waiting around for inspiration to strike because I can't sit down to write anytime I want.
Instead, I set up a writing schedule, which I stick to religiously. On my writing days, I either write or do something related to writing. Always. Some days, the words flow so quickly I can hardly keep up. Other days, it's like banging my head against the wall. But I stick with it, and the end result is always worth the work I put into it. If inspiration happens to strike on a non-writing day, then I jot notes in a notebook that I always keep handy. This may sound overly complicated, but if I didn't have this schedule then I would never get any writing done.
Basically, though, I think what the question of Inspiration vs. Every day is really asking is this: do you have what it takes to stick it out? Writing is hard work. Whether you write every day or need to be inspired in order to write, you still need to be able to come back to your story again and again in order to make it the best it can possibly be. If other things keep getting in the way (or if the “I’m not inspired” thing is really an excuse), then you’re never going to get there. If you truly need to be inspired in order to write, then find ways to get yourself inspired as often as you possibly can.
Keep working, learning, and pushing that envelope, and you'll get there in the end.