At that moment, doubt and fear set in. Doubt and fear, the great destroyers of true art. They intensify when you're going through a dry spell, when no one seems to like your work, not even you. It's so hard. You have to be a juggler to manage plot, characters, authenticity, emotions and everything else that goes into a good novel, and you sometimes wonder if it's worth the work.
Art is most threatened when you look back and when you look ahead. Even if you've succeeded in the past, you convince yourself you can't possibly do it again. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you can't write the perfect novel, why bother to write at all? The truth is there is no such thing as the perfect book, the perfect painting or the perfect sculpture. To believe there is perfection is to invite paralysis. What you have is your best attempt. Your work can't be perfect but it can get better.
In their excellent (almost perfect) book, Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland tell a story about a ceramics teacher who announced in the first class that he was dividing them into two groups. Here's their description of the class:
"All those on the left side of the studio, he (the teacher) said, would be graded solely on the quantity they produce, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the 'quantity' group: fifty pounds of pots rated an 'A,' forty pounds a 'B' and so on. Those being graded on 'quality,' however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one— to get an 'A.'
"Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the 'quantity' group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the 'quality' group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose and a pile of clay."
It may seem simplistic to say that you learn by doing, but that's the most accurate description of the writing process. As for perfection, it doesn't exist.