Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to write. Putting pen to paper, and later, fingers to keyboard, was the way she would throw all of her thoughts out there – not in a big mess, mind you, but in a “To Be Worked Through” pile that she would, with the help of the right punctuation marks (what would she do without her greatest love, the semicolon?) she would begin to organize and stack up into appropriate-sized stacks. In this way, she would learn to analyze the world around her, and her own world too, that which existed within her mind and heart. I like to think I have always been that girl – but the truth is, we often change, and then change back. Human being have this habit of going through phases. The Barbie Princess phase, the rebellious teenager phase, the middle aged balding man with a big belly phase – you know what I mean.
I went through a phase. People told me that they enjoyed reading my blog, and of course, I was overjoyed. I was immediately introduced to so many talented Pakistani bloggers who had made surprising amounts of money by blogging, and used that as a stepping stone to their success - a data point in the Things They Did Right slide when they gave their TEDxTalk presentations. Why don’t you make money off your blog Zainab? Why don’t you use Google AdWords or AdSense or [insert magic money-making machine name here] since you love blogging anyway? So, I said sure, why not? I love blogging. It would be cool if I could make some money off it. But here’s the thing: When I started talking to people about how to make that possible, they told me to do things I wasn’t happy about doing to my blog. First thing, I would have to write about popular or “trending” topics all the time. Stay on the ball with it. If a new movie came out, talk about that new movie, and be the first to get it out there. Use specific words so that you get more hits and Google gives you a higher rating. You shouldn’t use your name in your blog’s domain address because you need a strong branding element and a personal blog won’t ever be successful unless you are already famous… The list goes on. While they were all very supportive, kind and helpful, somehow their advice just didn’t seem to be the right thing for me.
Didn’t I start this blog because I wanted to talk about things that were important to me? They may not always be the Brangelina of news stories but they are real life issues that I have on my mind, and that I experience in my life. And my name – Zainab Khawaja – it’s not that my blog is called Zainab Khawaja’s Blog because I’m an egomaniac that likes writing my name all over every inch of my life. No. It’s there because this is my mind on digital paper. This is stuff flowing out of my head – things I am thinking and feeling – and it spans a variety of topics because I am human, and I feel and experience a variety of things. I know it may be “smarter” to have a niche blog – to have a specific category to talk about - only books, or only food, or only weight loss – but I never said I would talk about any of those things – my promise to you, dear Reader, was that I would talk about life.
So I got a domain name, I got it hosted, I tried to learn all this SEO business – but you know what? It’s not working for me. Maybe I am not as ambitious as the hard-core blogger billionaires out there. Maybe you can hold that against me. But I hope you won’t. I have a very strong emotional connection with what I write and it means something to me. It’s more than a machine that I need to generate hits for by hiring more authors and attracting advertising – it’s a way to reach out into the universe and say, “Hey. I am a Americanized Muslim woman in Pakistan, raised in the States, with some ideas and some thoughts and some questions. Do you have those too? Wanna figure them out together?”
I realize that by switching to the new domain (which was ZainabKhawaja.com) I lost some readers, and in switching back, I likely lost some more. I apologize for the confusion and the disconnect – but I needed some time to figure out what my writing meant to me. And you know, maybe some day, I’ll buy a domain from WordPress, and buy a premium theme, and maybe make some money off my blog, but until then, I am happy with this. It’s free to read and it’s free to write. No compulsion either way, because that’s the best thing about life, isn’t it? That we can choose?