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The Dirty Catch

It was my yearly checkup. You know, the time where, as an adult, your bodily fluids and blood samples turn whistleblower on you and that diet you’ve been telling everyone you’ve been on? Where the blood pressure sleeve feels more like a polygraph test. Maybe if I hold my breath and go zen…


“Now we’ll need a urine sample.” The nurse handed me an empty screw-top container and added, “The dirty catch.”


“Dirty catch?” I said. “What’s that?”


She went on to explain that the “dirty catch” was the beginning of your urine stream. The what’s-there-before-the-engine-runs-for-a-while sample to see if you’re harboring any venereal unmentionables.


Never mind all that, biologically. Instead, let’s steal the wonderful phrase “dirty catch” to talk about our creativity and what stifles it.


I’ve talked a lot about getting out of our own way, especially at the start of any project. The blank slate, canvas, or page is where our confidence is most delicate because at that point it’s all dreams and no groove. We secretly wish that in one blur of creative transposition we could swap the gold idol in our minds for the bag of sand we’re holding. But just like Indiana Jones in Raiders of The Lost Ark, the exchange never works that way. In fact, for a lot of us, since we know there’s no easy path from the mental thing to the thing thing, we can’t even get the ball (or stone) rolling.


Newsflash: Creativity is the path. The “dirty catch” are your first steps.


For me, bulldozing my cursor forward line after line in that first 30-minute writing session is my "dirty catch." With the field partially plowed, I can then sift through the soil and start planting some good ideas.


Don’t have a big creative project you’re working on but you’re swirling possible job deliverables or imaginary work conversations in your head? The “dirty catch” analogy can be used as the reason for a morning journal. It’s like swishing salt water in your mouth to clean everything out.


This notion also popped up in Tim Ferriss’s Tools Of Titans when he talked about why he does “Morning Pages” when he wakes up.


To be clear, I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. Morning pages are, as author Julia Cameron puts it, “spiritual windshield wipers.” It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. To quote her further, “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”
Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull. Could bitching and moaning on paper for 5 minutes each morning change your life? As crazy as it seems, I believe the answer is yes.

Morning pages are the dirty catch of slumber. Or if you’re like me, and your rousing mind is a bear pit of doubt and anxiety, morning pages catch the detritus leftover from the fray.


We all need a pressure release valve for the erratic whirlwind of our neurons. Whether it’s in the morning or the start of a creative endeavor, find a container for your brain’s “dirty catch” so you can then enjoy the clarity of mid flow.


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© Bassam Tarazi 2020