Eliminate One Indulgence for Greater Creativity

 Replace one indulgence
with one creative habit.

At the end of a hard day, we all indulge ourselves. It might be a bit of harmless reality TV, or some schlocky romance novel-reading. It might be a surf through our favorite blogs and pop culture websites. It might be a leisurely gourmet meal, or a roll of cookie dough. I’m not judging! We all make choices about the way we’re going to reward ourselves for our work, or indulge ourselves in our more tired moments.

But do we need every one of our usual indulgences?

For a little creative self-improvement this week, I’m encouraging you to think about choosing one indulgence to eliminate. My father always says, “You can have anything you want — you just can’t have everything you want,” and I think that’s a sound piece of advice. If you want to be able to finish a story every few weeks, or get some real work on your novel done, then you’re going to have to make choices and set priorities. Is that hour of reality television really crucial to your sanity, or can you devote that time to a little writing instead? Television is a particular weakness of mine, especially since all the world’s TV is largely available on Netflix these days, but my goal is to cut at least an hour of it a week away in exchange for some writing time.

After the jump: the transaction you make when you indulge yourself.

Maybe you don’t need all the rewards you think you do.

We tend to fiercely defend our chosen indulgences, whatever they may be. ‘Now wait just a minute,’ you might be thinking. ‘I work hard and I deserve to treat myself. We can’t be splitting the atom or writing the next great novel all the time. I deserve to shut off my brain once in a while.’ I wholeheartedly agree, and I do it too! But when we add up all the hours in a week that we spend rewarding ourselves (and feeling self-righteous about it all the while), I bet we’d discover that we didn’t need every last hour of that time. Does one long day at the office equal four hours of television at night? Does one trying afternoon of errands equal two hours of skimming blogs?

Choose how to reward yourself more carefully.

So why not be more choosy about how you’re going to indulge yourself? The tricky thing about mindless activities is that they encourage more and more mindlessness; the shut-off brain gets hungry for more and more. Reverse the process by setting a habit of mindfulness. Eliminate one thing in your routine that you don’t think you need, whether it’s a particular TV show you only watch out of habit, or a round of blog-reading that you always do before bed. Replace it with something a little more wholesome the same way dieting experts suggest replacing a candy bar habit with a banana habit. Pull out your book at the same time every night, the time that the TV show is normally on. Or sit down at your computer with the internet disconnected and do a little writing.

In that way, you might find that these creative pursuits are actually more rewarding than the way you “rewarded” yourself in the past.


  1. mary brady says:

    Excellent post, BLH–& during Lent, too! I live with a man who watches TV constantly. I’d never had a TV before we got together 22 years ago–but then, I only got a phone when I was 31. And I instantly stuck an answering machine on it.

    Whatever. I’ve lost all that snotty superiority people without TVs tend to exude because I’ve found tons of informative shows as well as The Walking Dead & Korean films available on TV.

    Still, it IS easy to get sucked into watching too much if it is always on. My cure was to buy my partner a set of good headphones long ago. This trick may help others who want to watch less TV but have members in the household who don’t want to cut back.

    It may seem like a lot of money, but the blessed silence that happens once I holler: “HEY! PUT ON YOUR HEADPHONES!!!” is worth every penny. If you cannot hear the TV, there is no siren call.

    L&K, MaryB

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