50-for-50 interview: Ishita Gupta, publisher

ishita gupta

When I was a young woman, I had questions and heroes aplenty, but it never would have occurred to me to reach out to the latter to help me solve the former, much less benefit the rest of the world in the process. Fortunately, Ishita Gupta is smarter, stronger, and far more selfless than I. Over the past two years, she and her team have been collecting and publishing an online magazine full of fascinating, insightful interviews with well-, semi-, and barely-known people from all walks of creative life, getting at the root of what makes us afraid and how we get past it. Every issue bursts with juicy ideas drawn from real-life struggles, and is designed and edited with exquisite care. Somehow, she manages to do this in her time off from coordinating the digital empire of one of new media’s greatest marketing thinkers, while remaining breezily cheerful, if not downright goofy. I look forward to the day when Ishita runs the world; it will be a vastly fairer place, not to mention a happier one.

When did you decide to become a writer?

Quite recently actually. I only “decided” to become a writer in the last few months. Prior to that I found myself writing a lot in journals, on weekends, for pleasure, for magazine articles, on a blog, but I didn’t really have a strategy or formal plan to become a writer. Only now, in the last few months have I felt that I want to dedicate time to cultivating my writing practice and formally declaring myself a writer. There’s power in words and I’m calling myself a writer.

Who was your favorite teacher?

If we’re talking favorite writing teacher, it has to be Stephen King. On Writing was one of the most phenomenal writing books I’ve ever read, both in terms of craft and in terms of practice. It is master storytelling and captivating writing at it’s best. Bindu Wiles is also a blogger and writer whom I look up to – her writing puts me in experiences I’ve never felt before and makes me see the importance of storytelling. My favorite is either Stephen King or Haruki Murakami, a brilliant Japanese author who writes so simply but with astounding power. It usually knocks my socks off. If we’re talking favorite teacher overall, then it’s Mrs. Durnel in the second grade. She sympathized with a little asthamatic, fresh-off-the-boat Indian girl with pigtails who looked like she was crying all the time. Many thanks are owed to her.

What do you love to write about?

I love writing about my experiences and my reflections on them – so lessons i’ve learned, experiences gained, thoughts mulled over. I like distilling my experiences into useful nuggets and other times I just love to meander. Normally, topics I write about are love, heartbreak, personal development, overcoming fear, being totally paralyzed by fear, sticking to your guns, being you even though the world farts at “you,” not being afraid to have boundaries, not being afraid to speak your beliefs, productivity, sometimes marketing and business, a lot of times about the writing process itself, being a writer, telling your own story. i really love sharing my story and experiences through my work and i’m still working on the best way to do this.

What has writing taught you?

Writing teaches me everyday. It’s taught me to slow down, to not have expectations about what writing can or should be, to reflect on my own experiences. It’s taught me time and time again to honor my own lessons, as trite as they may seem at times. It’s taught me to share my own story, no matter how small or silly. It’s taught me that if i maintain and cultivate a practice, it will support me when i need it to. It’s taught me to not think of every last word as useful; some words can be just to be. It’s taught me that there are important things and experiences in my life that are worth considering. It’s taught me that if i have the right intention and act on it, good things will follow. It’s taught me how to sit with myself, sit in loneliness, sit in fear, sit in anger, sit in grief, sit in sadness, sit in pain, sit in hurt, sit in peace, sit in love, sit in happiness. I’ve written through all of those emotions and writing has saved my life.

How has writing made you stronger?

Writing gives me a baseline when at times i’m not sure what’s up or what’s down. Writing has been the consistent way for me to express myself, whether usefully for others through an article, or just for myself through my journal, to make sense of what i’m feeling and of my experiences. Writing helps me slow down, stop thinking incessantly, and start thinking clearly. When i’m writing (with a pen, not on the keyboard) my mind goes to a different, more calm space. Despite other people telling me to stop, my writing has been a constant friend, a source of comfort, of openness, of a non-judgemental space where I can be utterly free to speak my truth – whatever that may be. Writing has given me support, friendship, love, and a solid foundation to know that my stories and experiences can help others. If I don’t write or haven’t written in a while, I feel clausterophobic and stuck, boxed in and tight. I know writing will always be there. It’s always a way for me to come back, start again, turn another page and start fresh. I always rely on it during my best and worst moments to help me get clarity.

If you could go back in time and tell 10-year-old you anything, what would it be?

It will be hard, you’ll have to keep coming up for air, people will keep pushing you down, but none of that feels as bad as it does to not be fully you. The way you are, your quirks, your likes and dislikes, your dreams – honor each of them because they are yours and your’s only. If you don’t share them, our world will really be missing something beautiful. It’s beautiful and wonderful to be you just as you are, and it’s your job, one of your only jobs, to make sure you always shine through. Because we need someone like you around.

What are your five favorite books, blogs or things to read?

Stephen King – On Writing

Pema Chodron – When Things Fall Apart

Failblog.org -always good for a laugh (and better than checking email a million times)

Steven Pressfield – The War of Art

Haruki Murakami – What I talk about when i talk about running

Dave Eggers – Zeitoun (so good i read it in one night, straight through. could. not. put. it. down.)

Ishita Gupta is founder and publisher of fear.less Magazine, the popular online magazine that profiles leading thinkers and their experiences overcoming fear. From entrepreneurs, business owners, writers, and creatives, to people who’ve survived September 11th and the Rwandan Genocide, Fear.less reveals how to deal with the challenges life throws at us and has been called “Fast Company meets Oprah” by its readers. Featured contributors include Karen Armstrong, Tim O’Reilly, Danielle LaPorte, Paul Ekman, Tony Hsieh, Howard Zinn, Julia Cameron, Sharon Salzberg, Steven Pressfield and more. Ishita also heads up Media and Partnerships at the Domino Project, a new publishing venture created by Seth Godin and powered by Amazon, where she gets Domino books they attention they deserve. A storyteller at heart, Ishita lives in the world of digital publishing and multimedia to spread powerful messages to people who most need to hear them.

Photo by Eddy Vallante.

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