It’s funny, ever since I got back from Hajj, my prayers have changed.

Before, I would often go into autopilot when I’d be praying. It’s hard not to. We memorize the whole prayer, it’s formal and prescribed as such, there’s only a few spots for spontaneity.

I used to wonder why.

But over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a mercy and a blessing.

God tells us what to say, shows us how to pray, and if you understand the words you’re saying, they’re beautiful and moving.

Oh I make duas/supplications at other times, but the salat/Muslim ritual prayer is pretty much set.

But ever since I got back from Hajj, it’s changed.

So many times I’ll start praying and it’s like my chest opens up and swells with such joy that it gives my spirit a bit of a hiccup.

It’s not something I’ve told many people, and the only reason I mention it now is because one of my friends, who gave me the feedback for the Hajj novel, felt sad and thought I was sad.

And I thought, “Oh no! I hope that’s not the way my posts are coming across!”

I have tried to be totally honest about the creative process I am going through. I’m doing so because I think people who would tend to gravitate to my blog would find that information useful because they’re probably creative types as well.

They might not be writers, and my comments might not apply exactly to their situation, but hey, creative process is creative process and it translate to other endeavours as well!

So much of the creative process is just plain hard slogging work.

And I don’t believe in hiding that.

But that doesn’t mean it brings me down.

Quite the opposite.

These are high class problems to have!

And be under no illusions…writing is HARD work!

The people who succeed are those who do the things that other people don’t want to do.

Many of my stories have taken me ages to write!

And it’s because there’s a stubborn streak in me. When I believe in a story I’ll keep coming back to it.

And I’ve said it before…it’s all about angles! It’s all about voice.

It’s like that moment in My Cousin Vinny when the Joe Pesci character is holding up that playing card and telling his cousin that the prosecutor will try to convince the jury that it’s solid, like a brick, that it has straight sides and all that, so that the jury won’t notice that it’s paper thin and flimsy.

Writers should remember that analogy! It works for stories we write too only the other way around.

Our stories are paper thin and flimsy, but write them right and the reader will feel they’re solid brick!

When we write we don’t have to recreate the whole world of our characters! We simply suggest realities and the reader’s imagination will fill in the rest. Do it well and your story will be so convincing that people will think you really do know what you’re talking about!

Even though you know you’re muddling about figuring things out as you go along.

Every single author I know of, has moments of doubt. Moments when they feel like a complete fraud.

I feel that way especially when I’m wrestling with a new story.

Then it doesn’t matter what I was able to accomplish with past stories, it feels like I’ll never get it right.

What helps though is the school presentations!

They are really really good for my confidence! And it’s because as I’m telling them my stories, doing presentations I’ve done thousands of times before, in the process I re-fall in love with my own stories.

I think, ‘Wow, these really are good. And look how much the kids are enjoying them!’

Hope that doesn’t sound egotistical or anything, I’m just being frank. Those are the reactions I get from the kids I visit.

I just got home from a literacy night and I got to tell two of my favourite folktales.

I’d gone to this school on Wednesday and they invited me back tonight (Thursday night) for a literacy evening where the parents were invited. I told the kids I saw on Wednesday that I’d be telling completely different stories tonight, and I fulfilled my promise.

A lot of them showed up! It was so nice to see so many parents out on a stormy Thursday evening, when it would have been so tempting to just stay home and watch T.V.!

The enthusiasm of those kids helps keep me going!

Basically what I’m taking a long-winded approach to say is this: You need to find your joy wherever you can find it.

You need to let it fill your heart till it feels like you’re swelling to burst open! (In a good way!)

I may relate the difficulties I’m facing in gory detail. (I even had a dream the other night–that same recurring nightmare I often get where the writing thing didn’t work out and I’m back doing daycare to make ends meet!)  But that doesn’t mean I’m not having a great time!

Growing up in that small town in Ontario, growing up being told I was brown because I was dirty and my classmates were white because they were clean, often being ambushed with ridicule because of the colour of my skin and the strangeness of my faith–it is absolutely astonishing to me that I can actually make a living as an author and a storyteller!

And to think I couldn’t even speak English when I first came here! And now I write in nothing else!

I have SO much to be thankful for and I often tell children there’s only one thing in my life that I would change and that’s my weight!

I really need to lose weight.

Other than that, life is good!

And I won’t let myself take that for granted.