Who Is Steering Your Creative Ship?
By Jacob Krueger
The Captain And The Navigator
If you imagine your writing as a ship, then you can think of your subconscious, creative brain as the Captain, and the conscious editing brain as the Navigator. Having a good Navigator is a vital part of keeping the ship afloat. After all, it’s the Navigator who reads the charts, plots the course, adjusts for winds and currents, and makes sure you arrive in the most efficient way possible. The Navigator makes the plans that make the Captain’s goals possible. Tell the Navigator where you want to go, and the Navigator will get you there.
The Trouble Occurs When The Navigator Starts To Think He Or She Is The Captain
Imagine your terrified Editing Brain Navigator, clinging desperately to the helm in the middle of the storm, seeing the rocks ahead, and not knowing what to do about them: frantically pouring through screenwriting books, planning, outlining, writing character backstories, building image systems, refining your hook, organizing around a theme, obsessing day and night… But no matter what it does the rocks just keep getting closer. Because your editing brain doesn’t know how to steer the ship.
Unlike the Captain, the Navigator has no idea how the intricate inner workings of the ship actually function. They don’t know how to run the rigging, manage the emotions of the crew, or make the millions of instinctual decisions that make the difference between survival and destruction. And yet, most of us continually put the Navigator in this position. Mostly because, just like the terrified Navigator, we’re unaware that the Captain even exists. Or unwilling to trust them if they do.
Learning To Trust Your Creative Brain
It’s only natural that we’d feel this way. Our entire education system, since we were in kindergarten, has taught us to ignore the instinctual, creative side that actually governs 90% of what we do, and to focus instead on the editing side of our brain– the part that thinks before we speak, second guesses our actions, and prepares us for a role on the Henry Ford assembly line of life. This same mistake is repeated by almost every screenwriting book on the market and almost every screenwriting guru on circuit. More and more and more education for the editing brain, until it thinks it’s the only brain on the ship. And the next thing you know, you’re completely blocked.
This Is Where Writer’s Block Comes From.
Just like in any enterprise, when you travel too long with the wrong person at the helm, there’s usually a mutiny brewing. And of course the same is true when it comes to writing. Your writer’s block may take the form of complete paralysis. Or it may take an even more insidious form– dull, flat, boring writing– the feeling that there’s something inside you that’s dying to come out, but that it’s never making its way onto the page.
Put Your Creative Captain Back At The Helm
Unlike your conscious editing Navigator, your subconscious creative Captain doesn’t give a hoot about Archetypes, Structure, Format, Symbol or any of the millions of other informational ideas that gurus preach and film professors salivate over. There will be plenty of time for that later. But first you need to learn to steer your ship. That’s why my screenwriting workshops begin with mind opening exercises, designed to help your over-anxious Navigator retire to its cabin for some well-deserved rest, and put your creative Captain back in control. Gradually, you’ll learn how to balance the two sides of your writer’s mind, so that both Captain and Navigator to work together in harmony to develop and craft your voice as a writer, discover the story within you, and translate it to the page.