“Sex and art are the same thing.” Pablo Picasso
Peter Schjeldahl, in The New Yorker, said that Picasso’s pictures were “dirty.” That’s probably true. Picasso claimed he rarely finished a day’s work without having an erection. No wonder he saw sex and art as the same thing. And no wonder Schjeldahl saw his work at dirty. Look at it with an erection. It’s filthy.
Georgia O’Keeffe painted a lot of vaginas. Picasso would have, too, if he’d had one. Art bleeds into sex and visa versa. What are you gonna do?
“Picasso’s successive styles, including Cubism, are more or less transparent masks or costumes for his sexual avidity,” Schjeldahl wrote, which explains why Picasso created over 50,000 pieces of art. That kind of output can only only be described as artistic nymphomania.
Writing, art, music — any creative expression — may be “costumes,” but they’re damn erotic costumes. For those who ask, “Why do you write?” the answer is simple: Sex. If they ask, “Are you actually getting paid?” the answer — for me, anyway — is, “Of course I’m getting paid. I’m getting off.”
Charles Bukowski had sex into his seventies, and he was an ugly man.
I remember a lawyer admitting he paid millions for sex. “That’s about what my wife cost me in the divorce,” he admitted. That’s too bad, and damn costly. Writers, painters and musicians get it for free—and no divorce.
So how come creatives have so much fun, while the rest of the world frets over money, because without money, they’re not successes, and without success, they pretty much have to beg for sex?
Artists rarely beg for it because we get a lot just sitting at our computers. We don’t have to be good looking. We don’t even have to wash (some of us don’t for days). In our typically grubby state, looks, manners and hygiene barely register. We can be ugly and smelly as hell and still have erections.
Charles Bukowski was an ugly man and the first to admit, an erection can be achieved without the slightest hope of human contact. Once you’re published, though, and people call you a genius, suddenly people want to have sex with you. You really can’t lose if you’re a creative genius.
“I’m exhausted but fulfilled,” one woman wrote. Sure, she’s fulfilled. She turned herself on for ten hours.
When the words flow, we’re having good sex, when the words don’t flow, we hang in there. Jack Kerouac once wrote, you have to “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” Critics think he was talking about people. Believe me, he was talking about sex.
People on social media sites talk about how many words they’ve written. They’re amazed by their output, how those pages keep piling up. “I’m exhausted but fulfilled,” one woman wrote. Sure, she’s fulfilled. She turned herself on for ten hours.
J. K. Rowling did her writing in little cafés. “The idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss,” she said. Don’t think she didn’t go home feeling like an exhibitionist. Bringing yourself off in public places is the ultimate high.
Capote essentially stopped writing after “In Cold Blood” because he was convinced he couldn’t have “good sex” again.
“Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad,” Truman Capote said, “and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. After that, the whip came down.”
Well, isn’t that what it’s all about? Aren’t we always amazed when sex is good with one person and bad with another? And isn’t good sex — I mean really good sex — like true art? Picasso’s output was amazing because he learned about good art early. Capote essentially stopped writing after “In Cold Blood” because he was convinced he couldn’t have “good sex” again.
In his later years, Ray Bradbury looked in the mirror and saw a happy man. “I’ve done what I wanted, what I enjoyed more than anything else,” he said, which pretty much mirrors The Marquis de Sade who wrote: “Sensual excess drives out pity in man.” Have ten hours of sex a day and the last thing you’ll feel is pitiful. You’re getting laid without begging.
Any form of imagination derives its pleasure from “sensual excess.” The endorphins released during creation are the same released during sex. The hypothalamus doesn’t draw a distinction. The brains says go, the amygdala, says fire away, and we go whoopee.
It’s easy to call someone a slut, a lot harder to remember where your thingy goes.
And it isn’t even just writing. Most writers will tell you the real sex comes from rewriting. “More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting,” John Irving confessed. Imagine correcting all the sex you’ve already had. You can’t beat it with a stick.
People condemn porn stars for screwing all the time. These critics are just jealous because they haven’t had any since the Reagan Administration. It’s easy to call someone a slut, a lot harder to remember where your thingy goes.
Nobody calls a writer a slut — unless they are a slut. The rest of us are expressionists. It’s a noble pursuit—until someone like me comes along and admits we’re all banging our brains out.
And let’s not forget the people telling us it’s our own fault we’re starving artists. “You could have gotten a job like mine,” they’ll say. “I’ve been with the government thirty years. Five more and I’ll be laughing with a full pension.”
Here’s what these secure, full pensioners forget. Studies show endorphins keep our brains sharp, warding off early Alzheimer’s and even Parkinson’s. Writers spurt more endorphins than a leaky balloon.
Elmore Leonard wrote for fourteen hours a day well into his seventies. You’ll have to do three crosswords and play eighteen holes of golf a day to even come close. Most civil servants will be sticking pudding in their ears while we’re still going whoopee.
Those people just think they’re having sex. Writing worn-out phrases is the equivalent of faking an orgasm.
Now, sure, writers have their problems. Hemingway’s alcohol consumption was about four times the national average. Bukowski drank, smoked and did drugs in great quantities right up until his death. Dorothy Parker drank like a fish, so did Lillian Hellman. Writing can’t solve all ills.
It’s still pretty darned good—and cheap, too. Even famous artists admit it’s hard to spend your royalties when you’re banging your brains out all day.
Near the end of his life, Hemingway couldn’t even remember where he left his royalty checks. How many times have you been screwing and forgotten where you left your wallet or purse? That’s what writers go through every day.
One thing to keep in mind, though (if you’re fingering your keyboard now), not everybody who writes has sex. Some are bad writers, some never say anything new. These people just think they’re having sex. Writing worn-out phrases is the equivalent of faking an orgasm.
If you want sex — real sex — you have to create. You have to dig deep, release demons, build new worlds and relationships. Only then will you know what it means to get up from your work like Picasso or Bukowski with an erection.
I’m not saying it’s easy but, then again, good sex never is.
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel“You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.