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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, David Maurice Sharp shares the experiences that inspired him to write his new book, The Thriving Artist: Saving and Investing for Performers, Artists, and the Stage & Film Industries.
Written by David Maurice Sharp
“There are a lot of good books out there that cover investing. However, virtually none of them are geared towards the freelance lifestyle that most of us experience as artists and freelancers. That means that you have to first understand what they are talking about—and it is like learning a new language—and then figure out how to apply the information to your own unique circumstances.”
In my financial literacy classes for artists, this was my usual response whenever someone would ask if I could recommend books for them to read to further their understanding of investing and saving. On more than a few occasions, someone would reply, “Why don’t you write one then?” I usually just laughed it off but grew to wonder if maybe I should try writing a book about saving and investing that spoke directly to artists and other freelancers. That is where my journey to writing The Thriving Artist began.
Prior to become a financial literacy educator and published author, I was fortunate to have experienced a nearly 20-year career as a modern dancer. I danced for some incredibly talented choreographers and went on some amazing tours, but like most dancers, rarely felt that I had a strong financial safety net. Enduring the ebb and flow of a freelancer’s income was a frequent source of stress. Early in my career, I was lucky enough to land a part-time gig at a Wall Street firm that provided me with both scheduling flexibility and a more constant base of income. A side benefit was that I also learned a lot about investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
As I was nearing the end of my dance career—and figuring out the next stage of my life—I realized that saving and investing could provide a much-need safety net for artists and other freelancers. It could also serve as an antidote to the feast-or-famine chaos they often experienced. However, artists and other freelancers would need a learning pathway that made the information less daunting and spoke to the unique circumstances of their lifestyle. Realizing that my own diverse experience could provide the bridge between worlds that was needed, I began teaching financial empowerment classes at HB Studio in New York. It was in those classes and others that I became increasingly aware of the lack of written material about investing for artists.
At this point, I had taken a full-time position with a firm specializing in corporate restructurings so had little time for arts-related projects, which I really missed. My connection to the arts community through my investing classes made me realize what an important part of my life it was and that working exclusively in the corporate world would never suit me. My soul needed the nourishment and creativity of the arts.
On one occasion, I was brought in to choreograph an Equity showcase production of Marat/Sade which proved to be a turning point for me. I rehearsed the cast primarily on weekends, but even ran out a few times during my lunch break to work with them. It reminded me that working in the arts—which I loved—never felt like a sacrifice even when I was juggling a seemingly impossible schedule to do it. I started thinking about ways that I could leave the corporate world—at least on a full-time basis—and get back into the arts world that fed my soul. The teaching work on financial literacy for artists that I was doing seemed like a great pathway to explore further—and perhaps actually writing a book was a possibility. Without giving it a try I would certainly never know.
One evening while at dinner with a friend—who had authored a book on sound design—and her husband, I mentioned that I was seriously thinking of trying to write an investing book for artists and other freelancers. I felt that it should be a primer that would be accessible, understandable and non-threatening for this underserved community. She graciously offered to mention the idea to her publisher, who worked for the Focal Press imprint of Taylor & Francis, one of the world’s leading publishers, and to put me in touch with them if they were interested. I began putting together the treatment proposal so that it would be ready to go to them and other potential publishers.
The acquisition editor at Focal liked the idea and asked for my proposal. It included an outline of the book, sample chapters, and research on other books on the same topic—of which there were virtually none. Encouraged, I also sent out proposals to about ten other publishers who accepted unsolicited pitches. Within a week, my Focal contact informed me that my idea had been green-lighted to go on to the full committee and that they would know shortly whether I would be offered a contract. The wait was excruciating, but the news came back positive—I was officially under contract! I would have about a year to write the manuscript with a goal of publishing within 2 years of the start of the contract.
I continued to write in earnest and about four months in, they asked to see whatever material I already had. At that point, I had finished the rough draft and was in the process of editing and polishing the chapters, so sent everything off. They responded by asking if I would be willing to fast-track the publication since I was so far along, but with no pressure if I wanted to stick to the original schedule. I was ready to get the information out into the world so agreed to the expedited timeline.
The next few months were a blur of receiving and considering comments from an outside editor, coordinating the creation of illustrations and tables, making final edits, and reviewing the index. When I received the first copy of my book it was a moment of pride and excitement. In the end, the total time between starting to write and having the copy in hand was about 1 year and 4 months.
Having never written a book before I didn’t realize that my experience was unusual to say the least! Not only was the timeline incredibly fast, but the fact that a publisher offered a contract so quickly was remarkable. As a side note, after I had signed with Taylor & Francis I received rejection letters from the other publishers I had pitched to. The fact that I was already under contract certainly made these rejections less impactful.
The Thriving Artist
What was the reason that so many pieces fell into place for me? I really believe that the information on investing for artists and other freelancers needed to be out in the world. The benefit that they can reap from creating a financial wellness plan needed to be explained in an artist’s language. That simple fact helped grease the wheels that led to the remarkable opportunities that opened up for me, and to the publication of The Thriving Artist.
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David Maurice Sharp is the author of The Thriving Artist: Saving and Investing for Performers, Artists, and the Stage & Film Industries. In 2014 he was named a ‘money hero’ for his work in financial literacy for artists by Money magazine. David currently teaches at HB Studio and the Entertainment Community Fund in New York City and frequently does workshops for MusiCares Foundation, The SAG-AFTRA Foundation and other organizations.
He danced for Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre, Lucinda Childs, Rachel Lampert and Anna Sokolow among others and his choreography has been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center, La Mama, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, New York Fringe Festival, Soho Rep, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. David is also a consulting director for Kroll, specializing in US and international restructurings.
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