Action involves a level of acceptance that what you are doing is not as good as it can be done. The act of action takes away from the ideal thing that was in your mind and leaves you with something that is an inferior form of that thing. This truth can be unsettling for you still know what it could have been and yet, you have to make peace with what it ended up being.
I struggle with this in my writing all the time. Those perfect sentences or scenes in my head can’t be replicated by the pen. With each word and each sentence, the ideal form of the story changes and by the end of it, the act is in some ways a failure. Failure to create perfection that only seems to exist in the mind.
Yet, you have to keep acting. The writing still must be done. Next time, you hope to step closer to that ideal vision or the ideal form of the story and you fail again and the time after that take another step closer.
I feel like this is in many ways what my life has been about. Acting on the vision of perfection which becomes more imperfect with each action. However, the opposite of this is not ideal either. Inaction and just dreaming. That will lead you nowhere but where you are right now and I must move forward.
As Rudyard Kipling said in his poem If, “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim”, avoid these complacent acts and you may step closer to becoming a man.
So, there must be action. With that comes the acceptance of imperfection. With imperfection comes the knowledge that you can do better. With this knowledge comes the second act, an action that sets to improve on the previous attempt.
As Kurt Vonnegut puts it, “So it goes”.
Endless attempts to create the forms that don’t exist in this world. You reach into this other world where these forms exist in the hopes of pulling these forms to this world but all you get is torn piece of cloth or fading memory of the form at best and usually, it’s even less. Yet you have a simple understanding of something greater that exists and you have to make do with this and attempt to create your own perfection.
The quote “it never is as good as it can be done” is not a pessimistic one. It’s optimistic. It says you can get better, to do better, you have improvements to make and it’s a lifelong truth, a companion that stays with you and at the end of it, it gives meaning to life for it makes you live, create and take action.
“Ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work. [A good novelist] must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. . . . The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.” (William Faulker)