The Artist’s Ménage à Trois - The truth about dirty creation
When Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Eat Pray Love,” people wanted more of the same from her. But she simply could not (and didn’t know how to) reproduce the popular memoir; within her was a global heroine’s journey but after the wave of fame, there was nothing left for a sequel.
So she wrote a not-so-good memoir (3.4/5 stars) followed by “The Signature of All Things,” which the New York Times called “a winning next act.”
One might conclude (naturally) that Validation is a fickle mistress, gifting attention before she cops off with some gentleman behind a velvet curtain. She’s the promiscuous sort, you’ll say, so why even bother?
The problem is that we need her.
Between the sheets
Artists often describe their work as creations from the soul, as truth manifested through material expression. When it’s thought of in this way, art is born from the heartbeat of humanity. Colors, chords, shapes, and all manner of beauty belong to everyone as does heartache, joy, jealousy, and love. That kind of art requires Validation’s approval because it’s no longer a mere trifle but the confirmation of something universal.
Here, prickly English majors might reference Emily Dickinson, whose work remained mostly known to the author. There she sat in her private room, scribbling poems that would only garner fame after her death. She surely did not seek validation.
Well, of course she did. Even Ms. Dickinson chased Validation to the powder room. In the absence of external validation, Dickinson befriended a much more intimate critic: herself.
The Inner Critic is one who’s collected the opinions of critics past, and who’s decided that standing on the margins of creation is more important than getting covered in ink and clay. She enjoys elevated box seats and cringes when you’ve hit a sharp note. She turns ebullient in the face of beauty.
The Inner Critic dances with Validation and, much to our horror, we realize that we’ve been engaged in a dirty ménage à trois this entire time.
Passion and dead fishes
A ménage à trois (so I’m told) doesn’t amount to evenly distributed attention. One person gets “serviced” by the other two, then the affection drifts to the other until all parties reach satisfaction.
In the bedroom, Validation is the enchantress whose touch makes us tingle. We want her all to ourselves but we know she’s no virgin. Yes, she’ll play in our bed but she’ll play in the beds of many, many artists during our lifetime. The best we can do is pull back the covers when she returns and whisper, “Thank you. I needed you today.”
The Inner Critic sadly never leaves. She offers commentary while watching us toil (let’s not even talk about sex with this #deadfish). Still, the Inner Critic is not wholly useless. She’ll say something like, “You’re not Shakespeare so deal with it,” and we’ll want to hate her for it. But we can’t hate her because she’s right---and despite the anguish of knowing we’ll never live up to The Bard, we’re now free to become less-than-Shakespeare; and if we’re less-than-Shakespeare, then we can just be ourselves.
Loose and lusty
A mattress supports only so much weight but it’s high time we acknowledge our immortal bedfellows---it’s the arrangement we forged a long time ago, consummated the moment we made our first creation.
The bed of an artist is therefore never empty. Alongside creation comes visitations from Validation and the presence of the Inner Critic. We need their discerning nature and sweet compliments to keep us going, to believe that the work we’re doing is important, even if the source of those accolades comes from ourselves. Without them, we’re just torpid slabs of flesh.
So we’ve learned to fight and fuck our partners, which endures the length of this messy, creative life. Never shall we suffer lonely nights in bed---because either we go to sleep angry (knowing time will heal), or with limbs entangled after a passionate romp.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julia Djeke is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Creative Women’s Lounge. Partnered with this passion project, she writes for agencies and brands from around the globe. You will often find her with a glass of wine or near a yoga mat—either practicing or teaching to individuals and corporations.