"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.

[Download “How To Be Creative” here.]


  1. Finally, somebody has given practical advice and wisdom for the “struggling artist” phenomenon. Thank you!

    I have always wanted the “never work a day in your life” quote to define myself in the workplace. However, I am finding that it takes a lot of exhausting work to even convince an employer that they should pay you for your hobby (something you do anyways for free). I love creative writing (sexy), which has led me in the direction of aspiring a career as a copywriter (cash).

    Yet, I still wonder if I need to have an additional (cash) skill, that’s not so subjective (i.e. coding). How many “cash” skills should one have for every “sexy” skill?