Stepping Stones or Grave Stones?

If there's one thing I hear over and over in the writing circles I'm part of, it's that failures and rejections can be stepping stones. And it's not just in writing, it's in all of life.

Last fall I sent a requested proposal to my dream publishing house, the goal I've been targeting for years. Many weeks later I received a very nice letter from the editor I'd sent to saying they weren't interested in the manuscript. Rejected. BUT, she took the time to tell me why. She told me what was missing, giving me something concrete to work with.

So, I had two choices. I could see the rejection as a grave stone or as a stepping stone.

Since the proposal was requested as a result of Seekerville's Read Me Contest, I emailed Tina to give her the news and to thank her for the contest which gave me the opportunity. Her reply to me was wonderful. “This is exciting. You have gotten your first editorial critique! Time to revise!”

Rejection vs. editorial critique.
Grave stone vs. stepping stone.

Same exact number of letters, totally different results.

If I were to see that rejection letter as just a rejection, it could easily become a grave stone. I could let it become the excuse to quit writing fiction—for a time or forever. But, if I see it as a stepping stone, the experience becomes the first, and often scariest or hardest proposal under my belt and off my list of things to dread and worry about. Besides, I now know what I need to do to bring that manuscript up to par—through an editor's eyes.

Yes, I failed at my ultimate objective—a contract with my dream publisher, but I took great strides along the journey of reaching that goal. Not just that, but I know a few more things I need to do to help me along that journey toward that goal.

Just think about the game Mother May I. How often did you hear “No steps needed, you win”? (or something like that, LoL) You didn't. It was always a series of small or giant steps forward or backward until you eventually reached the goal.

So why do we expect to immediately reach our goals?
Why do we see failure as bad?

Failing is only bad if we see it as a grave stone on a project. If we see it as a stepping stone we can be happy that we are one step closer. And maybe, just maybe, it's NOT all about reaching the goal. Maybe it's about the journey and the witness we are along that journey or the glory we bring to God through that journey. We can't become so fixated on the goal that we miss all the other things along the way.

As Christians, if we see failures as grave stones, we are neutralized—no longer effective, and Satan wins that round. Certainly not what we want to happen.

It's a mental issue—how we choose to see the failure.
It's part of the war we're in—and wars are made up of many battles. Few wars are won with one decisive crushing victory—especially where our minds are concerned. That means every time we catch ourselves thinking of the failure as a grave stone, we need to stop, turn around and choose to see it as a stepping stone. It's a choice we may have to make many times a day.

So that rejection letter I received... was it a grave stone or a stepping stone? A stepping stone. I'm hard at work on the manuscript, adding in the elements the editor said it was missing and changing the things she mentioned so I can submit it somewhere else. And you know what? If this manuscript never finds a home, it has served its purpose—it's helped me along the journey of life, helped me face lots of fears I had and shown me many cool things. Even if the manuscript is committed to the Dust Bunnies and never sees the light of day, it will have been a stepping stone.

What about you? Is there a grave stone in your life you need to change to a stepping stone? Ask God to help you see it differently then step in faith and choose to think about it differently. It's the difference between stepping backward and forward—between neutralization and victory.


  1. GREAT devotional, Patty! If I added up all my life's junk and awful things, they would suffocate me and I wouldn't be able to go on living. Honestly. But that's not how God told me to view them and He game me insight that my experiences are so someone else can make it out alive! Rejection in the writing world is hard and I'm so glad you got info to help you improve with it! Without it, it's hard to improve if you don't know how. Thanks for sharing your heart here.

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  2. There is so much encouragement - and wisdom - here, Patty. You've completed a manuscript! And submitted it! You know who you are and what you've been called to do. It's evident in every post and in every blog you've created and shared with those of us who haven't reached the "dare to dream" place yet. You are such a blessing. Enjoy your journey, one stepping stone at a time :) Love ...

  3. I absolutely LOVE this post - and was read it shortly after hearing my Kregel news. NEEDED it.

    Turning my gravestones into stepping stones. EXCELLENT.

  4. Patty, this post is AMAZING. Thank you!

  5. I am choosing to see stepping stones instead of grave stones! Thank you so much for this perspective.

    Blessings to you,

  6. Patty, what a great reminder to stay focused on God and His will. Sometimes when we receive constructive criticism, it's easy to think maybe we're not called. We expect instant results, but when I read about the great heroes of our faith throughout the pages of Scripture, that's not what I see. I see long periods of training often initiated by struggle and pain. (Moses in Midian then in the wilderness for *forty years* before they were ready to conquer the Promised Land, Joseph in Egypt under Potiphar then in prison, David hiding in caves ..) In fact, when the tension rises, we can probably be fairly certain God has His eye on us.

    This fall I received some hefty feedback from an industry professional regarding my dramas for Christ to the World. Around the same time, I received my first ever "revise and resub" request from an editor. Initially I was overwhelmed thinking, "I CAN'T DO THIS!" (Which happens to be my default position until God redirects my thoughts with truth.) But after stepping back and spending time with God in prayer, I grew excited. I realized God was training me. So what initially felt overwhelming actually became a time of intimacy between me and my Savior. :)


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