the sex & cash theory

(Early bizcard drawing. Laminated. New York, August ’98)
The Sex & Cash Theory: From”How To Be Creative”:
The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the assignment covers both bases, but not often.
A good example is Phil, a NY photographer friend of mine. He does really wild stuff for the indie magazines- it pays nothing, but it allows him to build his portfolio. Then he’ll go off and shoot some catalogues for a while. Nothing too exciting, but it pays the bills.
Another example is somebody like Martin Amis. He writes “serious” novels, but he has to supplement his income by writing the occasional newspaper article for the London papers (novel royalties are bloody pathetic- even bestsellers like Amis aren’t immune).
Or actors. One year Travolta will be in an ultra-hip flick like Pulp Fiction (“Sex”), the next he’ll be in some dumb spy thriller (“Cash”).
It’s balancing the need to make a good living while still maintaining one’s credibility. My M.O. is gapingvoid (“Sex”), coupled with writing advertising (“Cash”).
I’m thinking about the young writer who has to wait tables to pay the bills, in spite of her writing appearing in all the cool literary magazines…. who dreams of one day of not having her life divided so harshly.
Well, over time the “harshly” bit might go away, but not the “divided”. As soon as you accept this, for some reason your career starts moving ahead faster. I don’t know why this happens. It’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way- who just want to start Day One by quitting their current crappy job and moving straight on over to best-selling author. Well, they never make it.
Anyway, it’s called “The Sex & Cash Theory”. Keep it under your pillow.


  1. This is so fabulous, and it isn’t limited to artists … we geeks have the same problem. This probably explains why “open source” (stuff geeks work on at night for enjoyment… er, sex) often works so much better than the stuff we do for cash. Thanks.

  2. I can see this idea bridging the gap to other non-creative job spheres – but not quite in the same way. For example, I do instructional design at a large corporation for my paying job, but in my secret life I am a Ed. Psych PhD candidate.
    Doing congnitive science research as my side project hardly qualifies as “sexy” – interesting and occasionally fun to me, but not sexy(nor does it offer payment of any sort at this time).

  3. So true :)
    As has already been said, it can apply to many jobs, and there are also sexy cash work aswell?? 😉

  4. I’ll keep that in mind if/when I can’t get a job that involves research/literature (sex) and I have to find a job teaching Spanish to Americans.
    The idea makes me shiver all the same.

  5. it’s good to have one’s lifestyle validated. film/writing=sex, photocopying and grading papers=cash. not much of it, though.

  6. Of course, the idea is neatly turned on its head when you take, as an example, the world of prostitution.

  7. My life is all about Sex and Cash. It’s so true. And sometimes the Cash can even be fun. This just heightens the Sex.