Yet Untitled 080 - Transferring Confidence
I explore whether confidence is a readily transferrable commodity
Dearest Yet Untitler,
I recently came across a piece of writing I’d set down during the pandemic and then had forgotten about for some reason. I found it while organising my digital clutter.
When I read it, I found that it sang. I could scarcely believe that I had written it. But I had written it. And…
…nothing that I’m writing at present (and I’m writing every day) comes close to it in its assuredness, its triumph of ringing true like a good hammer.
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It’s interesting that this discovery took place after I had already chosen this present newsletter’s subject: the idea of ‘confidence’ as a commodity, and whether it’s transferrable between one part of our lives to another.
I think the question I’m asking is something along the lines of - “because I know how to ride a bicycle, shouldn’t I be able to rollerblade?” since both activities involve balance?
I think my present answer is - possibly, but I’m not sure. I think I would be able to learn rollerblading faster than I would had I never learned to ride a bike. But neither have I tried rollerblading, nor have I visited that elusive parallel universe where I do not know how to ride a bicycle.
The context in which I’m really asking myself this question is in the realm of writing - “because I am now confident writing a weekly newsletter, shouldn’t I be able to write a novel?”
That’s why the discovery of the above-mentioned prose-on-fire piece of writing amid my digital clutter is significant. For me, it represents the possibility of confidence in a medium I aspire to. It tells me that it’s there in me somewhere. But I am yet to find my way to a place where I’m able to access it with same assurance as when I write screenplays and this newsletter.
But damn, I tell myself, it’s writing at the end of the day. What am I missing that prevents me from knowing my way around this version of it?
Not having been there enough?
Let’s start with what I know.
I know that being an avid film watcher doesn't guarantee becoming a prolific filmmaker in the same way as being an avid reader doesn’t guarantee being a confident writer. But the Venn diagram representation of either scenario does, I think, constitute an overlap. What about the Venn Diagram representing the correlation between confidence as a newsletter writer, as a screenwriter and as a novelist?
I detect behind my words a frustration about having to find my way to proficiency…again. Dare I say it - am I tired? Dare I say, I’m bored? Or is it arrogance, the kind of arrogance I warn neophyte screenwriters who come seeking my guidance against. Do they not come to me seeing a very successful movie living clearly in their heads, just not knowing the means to translate it into the screenplay that will carry them forward? How different am I, seeing my fantastic novel clearly in my head, only not knowing the means to manifest it into a real novel that will carry me forward.
Both the neophyte screenwriter and I, the neophyte novelist, are seeking a path of least resistance - a clean, smooth way to translate what’s in our heads to the page. ‘How difficult can it be?’ says an erstwhile builder of houses who has seen many homes to completion, now seeking to tell a story for the screen that they feel must be told, consoling themselves that building and writing must have some overlap that they can exploit. ‘How difficult can it be?’ says me, the writer of nearly a 100 newsletters, now seeking a new way to tell what I consider important in a new medium, encouraging myself that my hard earned confidence from one medium can be transferred to another.
Does that path of least resistance exist?
Let me remind myself…
I once asked myself the same question - ‘how difficult can it be’ - before attempting to make a 5 minute short film in 2003. It had an esoteric title, and turned out to be an esoteric film that not too many people understood or responded warmly to, leaving me desolate and disappointed.
Thinking about it now, I feel I was entering from the wrong door.
Another time, in 2006, I made another short film. But I entered from another door this time. On the door hung the words: “What do I have to lose?”. The film I made this time was called Shanu Taxi and it travelled around the world to dozens of acclaimed film festivals, and people still speak about it today.
You can watch Shanu Taxi here.
What does it MEAN??
Remember this Youtube clip from 13 years ago? 😜
I’m sure it would be Ananya and Aahana’s dream come true if - by learning how to bike - they could know how to swim, to rollerblade and also drive cars.
Sadly for them (and thankfully for me as a parent) this isn’t true. They’d simply stop trying anything new and I’d lose them to their iPads.
I do not know when the seed of the desire to have something like ‘Yet Untitled’ in my life was planted, but I have a feeling that I felt it’s presence within me at least a decade, if not decades, before I wrote the first instalment. I pushed up against the sharp edges of many false starts and misfires of things like it until I finally chanced upon the ‘It’ which you are reading.
I feel that the sharp edges are like the knives that the hero of the amazing 36th Chamber of Shaolin (one of my favourite films of all time!) had strapped to his arms in the unforgiving strength-building exercise his master subjected him to. Watch as he goes from Neophyte to Master Bucket Transporter in the scene below, even helping others progress as he learns!
I think Liu Yude’s (the hero) transformation starts with him accepting that he’s a neophyte, and that work had to be done. There’s a definite moment of self-reflection around 1:56, check it out.
Before this moment, Liu gets cut, grazed and finished in spirit. After, in this most wonderful of Kung Fu training montages, Liu does the Hard Work, and from the ashes of his demolished mind and body then emerges a much stronger version of himself who inhales the exercise for breakfast while other neophytes shudder around him.
Here’s the best I can glean from this exploration around the search for confidence:
Because I can continue to a newsletter that has sustained for nearly a hundred weeks…
…I know that I WILL keep going until I write that damn novel.
That’s good enough for me.
I’ll leave you with this gem from the past, where I pay homage to the place of ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’ in my life.
Thanks for listening.
But wait, little frog! Was this investigation into confidence of any use to you? Did it unearth any insight or thought that was useful to you or could allow me to see something I don’t see?
Do write back, or comment. Tell me.
I want to know!