Five Minute Friday: Refine

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky

That quote always irked me a little. Sure, the Gretzky’s and the Jordan’s of this world can spout off pithy bits of inspirational wisdom like that. Look at all they’ve accomplished? We expect them to be awesome. Because they’ve proven their ability throughout their iconic careers.

But what about the rest of us?

I played basketball for most of my childhood. I loved the concept of the game, the camaraderie of my teammates (sometimes), and the satisfaction of working together to achieve a common goal. When we ran out onto our court for pre-game warm up, in our matching uniforms and music blasting from the speaker overhead, all of those wind sprints and drills we’d slogged through at practice seemed worth it. I hated to lose. Loved to win. My small high school in Alaska churned out some exceptional talent (and with very little contribution on my part) won the state tournament.

Despite the joy playing basketball brought me, I hated to shoot the ball during a game. All those people watching me, teammates depending on me … what if I missed? Yet a part of me still wanted to see statistics next to my name. When the game was over and I realized, once again, I hadn’t achieved much as an individual player on the court, I was mad. Vowed to take that shot the next time I was open.

I still wanted the glory and the accomplishment, yet my fear of failure kept me from even attempting to take a shot.

I wish I could tell you I learned my lesson. That somehow at the age of seventeen, my strong-willed teenage self might have realized I was in for a life-long struggle with perfectionism. Fast-forward to college, where my liberal arts education allowed my the freedom to dabble in the arts. Drawing, pottery, and creative writing appealed to me and I had requirements to meet, so why not?

I’m surprised my pottery instructor didn’t boot me out of there. He made it look so easy. Ha! The only easy thing for me was slapping that ball of clay onto the wheel. After that, it was nothing but frustration and annoyance. On the instructor’s part and mine. If I couldn’t produce a functional vessel, or even a salsa bowl, for Pete’s sake, why was I even trying?refine

This quote from Julia Cameron speaks to my struggle so eloquently:

“Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly–and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee–or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.”
Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

The longer I write, the more I’ve had to learn that my first draft of a manuscript isn’t going to be perfect. My second draft won’t be all that wonderful, either. By the third re-write, I see glimpses of hope that this story will eventually shine. By the fourth time around, I’m thinking maybe somebody in the world might want to read this thing.

I imagine that’s how the Lord is working in my life, as well. He will continue to refine me, like a potter with clay at the wheel, like a glassblower holding his work to the flame, like a woodworker turning a bowl at the lathe.

Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I far exceeded the 5 minute guideline for today’s prompt. Thanks for stopping by and hanging with me to the end. If you’d like to join the Five Minute Friday community, read more posts, or share your own thoughts by linking up your post, all of the details are here.


  1. Jeannie Prinsen:

    Oh, I know what you mean about the writing thing. So often I have this wonderful idea in my mind, yet I resist sitting down to put it into words because I just know that what I write is going to be terrible — so why even bother? But like everything else, it’s a process, and like you say, we need to go through those awful “first-draft” efforts to refine our skills.

    I’ve been reading Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s book The Road Back to You, which is about the Enneagram. Are you familiar with that? Their description of Type One, the Perfectionist, really resonates here. It’s so great to be idealistic, but the process is not only messy, but really beautiful and important — though it’s easy to want to bypass that to get to the idealized final product. So here’s to messy drafts, sloppy bowls, and rim shots…….


    • Heidi:

      Awww, very thought-provoking response, Jeannie. Thank you very much. I will pick up a copy of The Road Back to You. Yes, it is a messy process and also apparently one that’s essential to my growth as an imperfect human. Cringing at the thought of a rim shot, though. 😉 Guess I have more work to do.


  2. Andréa Lane:

    I love everything about this. I never tried to play basketball because gym class was torture enough for me, but I’ve definitely wanted to see statistics next to my name for things I’ve been too afraid to try. Looking forward to changing that this year.
    I’m so glad I found you today, and look forward to reading more about your journey!


    • Heidi:

      Thank you, Andrea. It’s hard to pour this onto the virtual page and send it out into the universe. Not my proudest moments, for sure. But I’ve certainly learned a lot from the process of confronting my perfectionism, and undoubtedly will learn a lot more. Wishing you well as you step out of your comfort zone and try something new.


  3. Lesley:

    Great post! I have struggled a lot with perfectionism too and that quote sums it up well. I’m gradually realising that it’s okay not to always get it right. I love that God is patient with us as he continues to refine us. Visiting from FMF.


    • Heidi:

      Hi Lesley. Yes, He is very patient. I’m grateful for that, too. Thank you for stopping by.


  4. Jeanne Takenaka:

    Heidi, what a great post! Your comments about learning some skills in pottery reminded me of a ministry called Potter’s Field. He’s an amazing potter.

    Now, back to your post. 🙂 I love the lessons you shared here. I, too, have struggled with perfection and the disappointments come when my efforts prove, yet again, I am nowhere close to perfect. That quote from Julia Cameron was amazing. It’s so true that we tend to compare our first drafts with another’s finished draft. That’s so unfair to us. Thank you for the reminder that we need to keep working at whatever gifting God has given us. And we need to work at it for His glory, not our own.

    Great post, my friend.


    • Heidi McCahan:

      Hi Jeanne! Thank you for reading my post and taking the time to comment. I’m glad these words were a blessing to you. Yes, the comparison game can be a thief of joy, isn’t it? I’m grateful for the grace and mercy of our Savior, who never gives up on His refining work. Have a wonderful week! I look forward to more of your posts and pictures.


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