My Dad used to say a performer gives three performances in every performance they give: (1) the performance they want to give, (2) the performance they give and, (3) the performance they wish to heck they'd given!
There is a phenomenon called "Divine Disatisfaction" that most every artist, if they are any good, grapples with, because the artistic pursuit is always a reflection of the artistic journey in process. When a performance is given, an artist learns enough in the process, that it isn't too long before they rise to greater skill because of that learning. One becomes "dissatisfied" with the previous performance and looks forward to the greater future performance. This also applies to a product that is created. So, by it's very nature, it produces a sense of "Divine Disatisfaction." Below are some words by Martha Graham and her protege', Agnes deMile, that say it very well:
"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you." Martha Graham
If that resonates with you, here is an excerpt from Agnes de Mille’s 1950 autobiography, Dance to the Piper, that elaborates on that thought with eloquence:
“The work wasn’t good enough. All changed, all passed. There was no way of ensuring lasting beauty. Verily, I wrote in water and judging my work with a dreadful dispassionate vision, perhaps it was as well. I spoke to Martha Graham on the pavement outside of Schrafft’s restaurant. She bowed her head and looked burningly into my face. She spoke from a life’s effort. I went home and wrote down what she said: (See quote above)
‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’
‘No artist is pleased." she said.
‘But, then, there is no satisfaction?’
‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.’'
Sandie Hum in her blog, "Sacred Fool, " sums it up by saying:
"I think when I first read those words many years ago, I thought, what an awful way to live, I never want to be that way… I want to be happy with my life."
"But as I live more, I keep finding life is not, at its root, either/or, but closer to both/and. The divine dissatisfaction that Martha speaks of is what I feel at the root of creation… because it is so clear, feeling the divine perfection coming through and then seeing how imperfect it is as I seek to bring it into form.
"And yet there is also a feeling of perfection in its imperfection, so that those words no longer hold the same meaning as before. It is Martha Graham’s queer "divine dissatisfaction" as it rests in the arms of the unchanging.
"There is such joy and aliveness in it, this feeling at the source of creation. It is the beat of the universe, in its unendingly changing form.
"Let’s dare to be sacred fools, dancing with life and allowing its vitality to be translated through us into action. In and through our own queer divine dissatisfaction, let’s allow our own unique expression to find its life in this world, for the sake of all."