"I wanted to be a writer, that's all. I wanted to write about it all. Everything that happens in a moment. The way those flowers looked when you carried them in your arms. This towel - how it smells, how it feels, this thread, all our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything in the world. Everything all mixed up. Like it's all mixed up now. And I failed. I failed. No matter what you start with it ends up being so much less. Sheer fucking pride and stupidity." The Hours (film).
Ed Harris's short monologue is one that I identify with more than any other because it reflects exactly how I feel at the end of each book: even when it's been accepted by a great publishing house, even when it's out and being stocked on the shelves, even when I receive wonderful reader-mail, even when it wins prizes ... it's never quite enough.
To quote Michael Cunningham, author of the book, The Hours:
"Any decent novelist suffers from the sense that even if the finished book turned out well, you had something greater in mind. You've been walking around with this idea in your head which is the book that contains everything you know and can imagine. The book is going to change people's consciousness, if not the actual world. But of course, even if the book does turn out really well, it's still just a book. And it's impossible not to feel disappointed in it. Artists fail. We all fail. It's never as good as you know it could be. That's part of what keeps us at it and part of what occasionally sends one of us out the window."
I hope I don't fall into the latter category but I think I oscillate to greater or lesser degrees between both camps. I always want more. The last book is good but the next one has to be even better. I win one award but now I've got to win another. You get past one hurdle and then there's another and then another. At the end of the day, you're striving to be the best - but that's unattainable, there is no 'best'. So you're reaching for the impossible. That can fuel your fire but also, ultimately, destroy you.