Monday, January 08, 2007

On tenterhooks

Since I've been using the phrase "tenter hooks" a lot lately, I decided to get out the ol' dictionary and make sure I was using it correctly. I have been, but imagine my surprise that the dictionary closest to hand lists the phrase as a single word: tenterhooks. I've always broken it down into two words.

A tenterhook is defined as a sharp hooked nail used for fastening cloth on a tenter (which is a framework or machine on which cloth is stretched so as to dry evenly without shrinkage). If you have ever bought yard goods (fabric, cloth), you probably have noticed the tiny holes along the selvage (narrow, tightly woven edge on a fabric that prevents unraveling). These holes come from the tenterhooks used in the drying process.

The phrase "on tenterhooks" means to be in a state of suspense or anxiety. That's how I've felt lately, stretched tight as I await a critique of my newly minted novel by a trusted and highly valued friend and multi-published author. She said she would read it this weekend. When I didn't hear anything after midnight Sunday, and because I worried that my request might have put a good deal of stress on her, I sent her a hesitant little query as to how it was going.

Life happened, and she hadn't had the time she wanted to finish reading my draft, but she had read up to a certain event in the course of the novel. Ironically, this is the point to which I have polished the work.

Oh, the things she says about what she read thus far make my innards writhe in an agony of delight! Now I sit with my head in my hands, worrying that the second half won't be up to snuff. What torments of insecurity we writers suffer! I cringe at the thought of disappointing her, after the wonderful things she has said about the book up to now.

I cry out to God for the strength and the talent to pull the words tightly together in a whole that will entertain, inspire, and uplift. As I struggle to heal my characters' aching hearts and souls, I strive to bring peace to my own being. I crave praise. I need validation that I'm not just playing around, or wasting the time I have here on earth on something of no substance. My Maker gave me so many talents, and I have tried for many year to magnify this one, of using words to affect my readers' emotions and thoughts, into a worthy gift I can place on the altar of God.

As much as I love my friend, being on tenterhooks waiting for her praise is nothing compared to the tenterhooks I feel pulling me taut in my desire to do the will of my Heavenly Father. When my life on earth is past, I yearn to hear His dear Voice saying, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."


  1. I'm sure your book is great! (Which doesn't mean it won't need a bunch of changes. That's just the way it is with books . . .and children too, now that I think about it . . .)

    But I praise you, Marsha. I validate you. Heck, I always thought it was tender hooks.

  2. Thanks for your praise and validation, Janette. You make me feel better about spending the time necessary to pull this book together. I found a terrific photo for the front cover, and I'm all shivery thinking about how soon it will be published.

    Oh wait, maybe that's the freezing weather outside.


    I used to crank the heat up to 82 degrees in my house during the winter, but now I'm learning to live with sub 60 degree temps in this tiny tin can. My English forebears wore sweaters in the house. Now I do, too.


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