Sunday, August 8

Sex and Cash Theory

Gapingvoid’s Hugh Macleod posits that every creative person lives an inherently bipolar existence: “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 task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

He calls this his “Sex and Cash Theory,” wherein the sex part is the thing that you really really want to do, like draw comic books or make huge metal and cardboard sculptures, or perhaps compose another concerto in key whatever; and the cash part is the crappy job you have to do because it keeps a roof over your head or feeds your coffee addiction or your predilection to wear denim from West European brands or allows you your ten thousand text messages.

Of course we all dream of a job that’ll do both. But good sex and good cash doesn’t always mix. [I think I nearly had that once, but something will always pull you away. You begin to get guilty that you’re getting cash for something that’s beginning to sound crappy, but convince yourself that no, this is what you really want to do.] Some people will abandon their day jobs to die for their one art, and that’s when trouble begins. Because soon enough you will discover that you will really die—of hunger or hypothermia (thank goodness we live in a tropical country), choose your own poison.

There was this guy I knew you let go of a nice paying job to write full time, only to find out that the business isn’t exactly nurturing to beginning writers. Last I heard, he went back to his old job and he now drives a car and has all those burgis accessories. He learned it the hard way. and starving for your art, no matter how romantic it sounds, will tear whatever dignity you have left and gnaw at your little intestines. Only a handful of people get to live decently via freelance, and the rest of the world has to contend with the duality of doing something they want, off office hours.

I actually admire people who can do that, the ones who can strike the balance between making good money and maintaining creative sovereignity. The ones who can sit down on their desks and not squirm while waiting for the day to be over and they can bolt out the door and do that little project of theirs. My infernal worry is to get stuck in that job, to forever hold on to a dream of “Someday, someday I will write what I really want..” and then wake up and look into the mirror and see grey hair and you’re 40 years old and you still haven’t fulfilled that one dream. It can kill you, really. Little by little, piece by piece, line by excruciating line of dialogue.

Perhaps you might panic, and then jump into desperation mode. Quit, throw everything away, must do this, now. This can only work if you have the agility, the nerve to submit yourself to poverty for a few months, maybe a couple of years of agony. You have to say goodbye to your nice meals, your Western European clothes, your weekday afternoons spent reading by a roadside café. All that will be gone, and you will have to scrounge around for your next meal, that next paycheck. Do this while you still can, when you’re young enough and your only responsibility is yourself. Otherwise, quit the drama and go back to work.

Now it’ll be a different scene if somebody supplies you the cash so you can live the sex part. It’s Vincent and Theo, Pepe and Paciano. Vincent Van Gogh would never have made those wilted flowers and those starry, starry nights if it weren’t for his brother’s support. Jose Rizal wouldn’t be able to write those novels and chart a hardy hero’s life (not to mention making ligaw all those European girls) if not for his kuya’s toiling in Pinas. The power of patronage still counts for something. How can the creative think about art when he has to figure out where to get his next meal? How can you brim with angst when you can barely make a decent living for yourself? The obrero doesn’t think about his plight. He just works. It’s the one with the idle hands and spare time who wrestles with notions about identity and nation. But I digress.

So there you go, sex and cash. It’ll be nice to have both. But I do think the faster we accept that we live several lives at once, the sooner we are at peace with the fact that we must toil to get cash to fund our sex lives, then the better it’ll be for everyone. If not, then perhaps you will be kind enough to refer me to Theo.

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