What a totally marvelous thread, Sarah! I stumbled upon it only today. After reading everyone's replies, I would have to say that everyone has provided the answers I would have provided.
Perhaps the only thing I would add that I didn't quite see listed...
...is my work really improved when I accepted that the skills and techniques I needed to produce the quality work I wanted (and still want) don't happen overnight.
It takes patience and practice... for me, extraordinary levels of patience and practice.
Doing polymer clay for fun for so long has taught me the combination of good self esteem, ability to focus, the right combination of tools and supplies, lessons, clay buddies, discovering what styles/colors/etc/ speak to me, patience, practice, confidence and a few other goodies are very important to produce the level of work I like.
All those elements don't come together all at once. It took me a while to identify those aforementioned elements and to realize that if I let them, they will incorporate into me in their own good time.