I’ve been walking around in a bit of a daze the past few days because of an article I read by chance.

I was satisfying my curiosity as usual, delving into stuff that was interesting but didn’t seem to be directly related to any writing topic, when I came across a link to an article about creativity in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/30/120130fa_fact_lehrer

It’s rather a long article, but don’t let that daunt you!

I’ve never been much of a brainstormer, but what the article says about how creativity needs certain impetus blew my mind!

The article talks about how in order for creativity to really flourish, you need to have constant contact with all kinds of people, and DIFFERENT ways of thinking.

I’ve always felt that the friction of living in a society that misunderstands a good portion of my cultural basis has helped, rather than hindered me–creatively.

Meeting bias and conflict all those years helped stimulate my creative thinking!

By challenging the foundation of my beliefs, by forcing me to question and evaluate, it kind of ‘toned’ my creative tendencies.

I was discussing this with my husband over dinner.

When I first started writing 23 years ago, I felt like such a homemaker. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! *g*) But I just felt so much like I’d entered an alien environment.

I guess I’d gotten used to being with my family–all Muslim, and mostly hanging around Muslim friends and acquaintances.

It was a bit of a culture shock to thrust myself into the writing world–which was SO white!

Honestly there were times when I felt like forgetting about the whole thing and just going back home to my community.

It would have been so much easier!

I had enrolled in a college workshop on writing for children. When the guy teaching it asked me to leave, I really did feel hopeless. It would have been so easy to give up. And honestly if, at the time, I could have found books that represented the way I felt about things, that reflected my reality as a Canadian Muslim, I probably would have given up.

There’s a native author I really like who did precisely that. She had enrolled in the same college workshop and there came a moment when some people were being insensitive towards her heritage–and she left. In fact not only did she leave that course, I believe she stopped writing.

Breaks my heart!

She was so talented!

She wrote lyrically and her books were published by well respected publishers!

In the beginning of the speech I gave at the Danish I.B.B.Y. congress, I talked about how all the influx of people going from culture to culture is a good thing. How it creates a cross-pollination of ideas. (You can read the entire speech here: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/Freedom%20of%20Speech.pdf)

I felt that instinctively but after reading that New Yorker article, I realize just how correct that idea is!

You need that type of friction between cultures and ways of thinking to really pull the best creative juices out of you!

About a year ago one of my best friends, a Jewish lady I’d been close to for more than twenty years–we started our writing journey in the same writing course–terminated our friendship.

Yeah, she dumped me.

We were writing buddies!

When I got acceptances I often called her even before I called my husband because I knew she’d actually squeal for joy whereas hubby would just nod and smile.

A year later and I still miss her.

When I went down to Windsor last Tuesday, I got almost to London before I realized that for once I hadn’t thought of her when I passed the exit on the highway I would have taken to go to her house.

It was a bit of a milestone. I felt proud of myself.

And then I missed her again.

But honestly, I understand what she did now.

She withdrew into the comfort of her own cultural kind.

I believe our friendship broke because of political reasons.

I started it when I heard her spouting Zionist talking points regarding the war in Lebanon in 2006.

I was the first one who pulled back.

Israel invaded Lebanon, inflicting casualties of 10 to 1, and somehow she still kept insisting that Israel was the victim!

I couldn’t take it. I pulled away from her. And yet it was funny, even when I was breaking the friendship I couldn’t say a mean word to her, nor could she to me.

It was like we were trying not to hurt each other.

Oh but I missed her!

And finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. I called her up and said that I knew that the Palestinians did things they should never be doing, could she at least admit that Israel was at fault too?

The way she said that of course Israel wasn’t completely blameless actually implied that it pretty much was.

But I thought to myself, at least it’s somewhat of an admission, and maybe if I continued being her friend she would eventually come to realize.

But part of me knew that this was just a reprieve. And when she broke it off, I can’t say I was that surprised.

But now I think back to all the times I was hurt by the casual things that people would say about my culture and beliefs and all the times it was tempting to withdraw.

I understand how she feels to a certain degree. I had to face people who looked at crazy things that other Muslims did and judged me accordingly.

I had to learn to divorce my loyalty from those kind of Muslims, to be able to come out and blatantly say, “Yes, some Muslims are crazy and I don’t stand with those people.”

I had to learn to examine and separate my beliefs and Islamic principles from my ‘team’. And I had to learn not to be embarrassed by them.

It would have been way easier to just crawl back into the coccoon of my community! Back where everyone thought the same and felt the same as I do and I didn’t have to defend a darn thing!

But no, I feel like I have a job to do.

Through all this I turned to God and reminded myself constantly that there’s a reason for this. There’s a reason for hurting this way and I have no idea what it is but I do know that it’s part of God’s plan for me.

And you know what?

Today it occurs to me that her leaving was a bit of a blessing.

It was only after she left that I felt free enough to write Wanting Mor.

Maybe knowing that she would see my work stifled something within me. Maybe it made me hold back.

I don’t know.

I just know that this conflict I’ve had to deal with has definitely had an effect on my creativity. I think it has made me grow.