On The Table Read, the “Best Entertainment Celebrity Magazine in the UK“, dancer and author David Maurice Sharp describes his book; The Thriving Artist, Saving And Investing For Performers, Artists, And The Stage And Film Industry.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed David Maurice Sharp about his dance career, what inspired him to write his book, The Thriving Artist, and the work that went into it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I was a professional modern dancer for many years in New York City. I began a temp job to help make ends meet and to give me some financial stability which ended up also teaching me about investing in the market. Realizing how much saving and investing could benefit artists and other freelancers, who often experience gig work and fluctuating levels of income, I began teaching workshops to help educate them.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
The topic of books on investing often arose in the classes I taught, with students asking what would be good ones to read.
I found that I always had to caveat my response with the condition that many books were excellent sources of basic information but none of them really spoke to the freelance lifestyle experienced by artists and others. Several students suggested that I write a book that related to them which I initially dismissed. The more I considered it, the more it seemed to make sense.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I had already retired from performing but still occasionally did some choreography and guest movement teaching, and was working full-time for a financial restructuring advisory company. I had just had a wonderfully rewarding experience choreographing a production of Marat/Sade and realized how much I missed having the arts as a central element of my life.
I decided to resign from the restructuring firm and explore writing a book about financial literacy for artists, expanding my teaching, and exploring other arts-related endeavors. My last day on the job was a Friday and I began writing the book the following Monday.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Everything fell remarkably into place. I began writing at the beginning of November and by March had a contract with the Focal imprint of Taylor & Francis to publish it. In July, they asked to see drafts of what I had completed to that point and, after reviewing, asked if they could fast-track the publication. I did the final edit in December and it was published in February of the following year. It was only later that I realized how unusual it was for this to have come together so quickly and easily.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Thriving Artist?
The biggest challenge was making sure that the information was easily understandable by people who had never been exposed to financial investing—and were often terrified of it—and to make them interested enough to take the plunge into building a financial portfolio. It was also important to me to present the information in a way that wouldn’t date out quickly, as financial information can change quite quickly. Finding the balance between keeping the information relevant for the long term and making it interesting was always on my mind.
What was your research process for The Thriving Artist?
I found the classes I was teaching to be great sources of information. They provided my with insight into what intrigued artists about investing and building a financial wellness plan, and methods for helping to present the information in understandable terms.
How did you plan the structure of The Thriving Artist?
Learning about finances and investing has always been a scary venture for artists so I knew that I had to present it in a way that wasn’t intimidating. Short, easily digested chapters were crucial to this and also would allow artists to follow their curiosity by jumping around the topics.
I also added four intermission chapters both to provide a break from the technical information and to give readers an insight into how I, as an artist, blended the two worlds together.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Thriving Artist need?
I enlisted friends to read parts of the book to ensure that it made sense to someone approaching the subject for the first time and to help identify areas that needed further explanation. Once the final draft was sent to the publisher, they had an independent editor review it for content and make suggestions. Overall, at that point there were minimal changes made to the manuscript.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Don’t be afraid to allow the structure of the book to evolve and change as you are writing it. Sometimes, some very interesting directions opened up as I was working. I also found it advantageous to step away for walks while I was writing—some wonderful ideas arose when I gave my mind the freedom to wander.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
When the publisher sent me the first printed copy of the book I was very proud of it! I found the process of writing it to be all-consuming but was definitely worth the effort. Every time I hear from a reader that the book was helpful to them I feel a sense of pride and gratitude.
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