It's my constant pursuit of perfection that I think helps me to improve my bonsai trees. I'm never completely satisfied with my work and am always looking to improve, both myself and my trees.
I have a small library of bonsai books sitting on my shelf at the moment. There are a few Kokufu-ten exhibit books spanning the last 10 years or so. Next to those are several Ginkgo Awards Best of Bonsai in Europe books that I've received as Christmas gifts. On down the shelf is the Bay Island Bonsai exhibit book, along with books on varying techniques and other topics. There are also a large number of bonsai magazines from all parts of the world. All of these tomes have been put to great use over the years. Each one has been used to further my development and bonsai career, so to speak.
There is a natural progression in bonsai. First, you must learn the basics. There will probably be a time that you flounder and kill a tree or two. Much of these failures will be due to lack of knowledge. It is your own determinations that will help you decide to give up or pursue better bonsai.
Once you've mastered the basics its time to start the real learning process. There is a world of knowledge available. New books and magazines are being published constantly displaying newly devised techniques as well as old techniques rarely seen before. Clubs and study groups are filled with knowledgeable people that you can learn a great deal from. Conventions, symposiums, and seminars are constantly being held across the country and abroad. Bonsai Masters are traveling the world teaching and demonstrating their vast knowledge of how to create and improve bonsai.
But, all the knowledge in the world will do you no good if you don't put it to good use.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
I attended a convention a few years ago in which Marc Noelanders asked a question in the middle of his demonstration. "How many of you have wired a tree?" he asked. Nearly every hand in the audience went up. "Ok, how many have wired for more than 1 hour in a sitting?" About half of the hands went down. "And how many have done that once a month?" he continued. A half-dozen of people still had their hands raised. "How about once a week?" All hands were now down. He continued on to say that he wires a few hours each and every day.
Traveling bonsai masters on the teaching circuit may be a bit extreme for an example. They have the unique opportunity to practice bonsai with a large variety and assortment of trees almost every day. If you're a small collector or hobbyist you may not have the same opportunity, but the point should not be lost. You can only improve at a skill by constant practice. And your trees will only improve with constant training.
More time needs to be spent with your trees. Spend more time doing. Cut, bend, and prune with a purpose. Enjoy the work and see the outcome for yourself. Don't accept "good enough" from yourself. Strive to constantly improve your trees. You won't regret it.