Mitesh G Desai: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

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Make a plan — This seems so basic but it’s one I am guilty of failing miserably on. Initially, I was guilty of writing in a very unstructured way, picking out fun ideas but not really trying to connect them properly. The first iteration of The Big Shot Trader was guilty of feeling like a disconnected set of short stories about finance.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitesh Desai.

Mitesh Desai has just released his debut novel “The Big Shot Trader”. He currently runs Landys Chemist, an award winning independent E-Commerce Pharmacy. Previously he was a trader at Royal Bank of Canada and JP Morgan.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I had an incredibly fortunate upbringing. We lived in a North London suburb and my parents worked incredibly hard to give myself and my sisters a wonderful life. I got to attend a really good school and then following that went on to university to read Economics.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m not that old but seem to have had a lot of careers already so this begs the question, which one?!

Whilst at University I was convinced that I wanted to work in Investment Banking. At the time it was considered incredibly glamorous with ludicrously high rewards. I had dreams of retiring before thirty (I was, clearly, naïve to say the least). I often questioned my sanity at the time because I completed two internships, neither of which I particularly enjoyed, and at the end of it all I still decided to accept a graduate job in the industry. In truth, I think I had blinkers on and was so focused on this end goal that I never stopped to evaluate if it was really the best career for me.

Fast forward five years and I left banking, not entirely on my own terms. I had a home and some money hived away so decided to take a moment to try and figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I knew I wanted fulfillment and a new adventure but I didn’t really know at the time what that looked like. Whilst travelling and thinking about different opportunities I got a call from my old Economics teacher telling me that someone they had hired had changed their mind last minute so the department was in need of someone temporary and was I interested. I decided to give it a go since I hadn’t really figured out what else to do by that stage.

Whilst teaching I started working on my family’s pharmacy business in the background too. This started to really perform well so after two years of teaching I had to leave to focus on E-Commerce which is where I still work today.

So in all of this, where’s the writing? I started off writing a blog in 2012 about a silly kid in finance. It was partially self-help and provided a real catharsis as I grew more and more disillusioned with finance in general. I loved writing it and had a lot of fun and then when I left finance would occasionally revisit it but didn’t write with any consistency or focus. I think I pretended to have writer’s block for about five years to avoid working on it.

It remained a pipe dream of mine to turn the blog into a novel and to publish it. I only really got serious about trying to write with purpose when I discovered my wife was pregnant with our first child. It became clear in my mind that if I didn’t get the thing written soon I would probably never get it finished. I worked consistently in the evenings and on the weekends to produce something I was happy with.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I actually have a couple of book ideas which I am really tempted to start working on whilst the excitement of releasing the first is still in me but am doing my best to hold back, stay focused on The Big Shot Trader and will be taking a proper look early next year. Watch this space!

Who are some of the most interesting people in finance you have interacted with?

What has really made me happy since releasing The Big Shot Trader is how many people who work in finance have messaged me to ask if a particular character is based on someone they worked with. It makes me feel like I captured the essence of certain personality types that were very common in the industry.

Clarke is possibly my favourite character in the novel. I love his devil-may-care attitude and his way with words. I can find remnants of Clarke in so many walks of my life; geezers in gangster films and traders in markets all give me a Clarke vibe.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

I really wanted the story to feel true and resonate with people. I remember being a junior banker and feeling entirely drained on the tube home each night. I would wonder if I’d become really stupid between graduation from university and starting my career because I was not used to making so many mistakes day to day in everything I did. Living with two other junior bankers probably kept me sane because every night we all came home and took turns telling the same sorts of stories about the same kinds of mistakes. Retrospectively I realise now we were effectively learning a new language and needed to be patient in doing so.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Make a plan

This seems so basic but it’s one I am guilty of failing miserably on. Initially I was guilty of writing in a very unstructured way, picking out fun ideas but not really trying to connect them properly. The first iteration of The Big Shot Trader was guilty of feeling like a disconnected set of short stories about finance.

2 . Pick a tone of voice

Again this seems so basic. I swung between the past and present tense in early drafts. I feel like sometimes my protagonist felt like a different person to who he was supposed to be. This was possibly a reflection of the fact that I wrote over the course of a decade.

3 . Imagine your novel as a movie

This was some great advice I got way too late. Movies are often gripping from very early on; they capture your attention and drag you in fast. They make you feel connected to characters in such a short space of time and there’s no reason why a novel should be any different. Capture the attention of your audience and then keep them excited to find out what happens.

4 . Experiment with a non-linear time line.

Connected to point 3, I realised a great way to hold onto a reader’s attention was to reveal something about the future and to then let those two timelines run parallel until the end of the novel. If you’re starting out it’s worth wondering if something like this might grip a reader’s attention.

5 . Ask for feedback

The hardest part is starting to write. Once you do ask someone for an opinion as early as possible. You might feel awkward or nervous about being judged but if you’re writing a book that’s going to happen anyway. Better to see what a friend that you trust thinks instead of waiting to submit to agents and finding that nobody likes what you’ve invested so much of yourself into.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see humanity make a proper effort to clean up the world’s oceans and to find a way to live sustainably. It seems more likely that we could develop clean energy and stop polluting versus finding a new planet to live on.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

I wouldn’t mind sitting down with Elon Musk. I admire him as a visionary but don’t strictly agree with his politics. I’d love to understand more about what makes him tick and what has influenced some of his choices, decisions, and the way in which he courts publicity.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am doing my best to hold on to my privacy for as long as I can but I have started a twitter page @mdesaiauthor where I will be doing my best to post bits and pieces.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Mitesh G Desai: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.