Friday, February 4, 2011

Losing Control by Laurie Alice Eakes

Hi, my name is Laurie Alice, and I’m a control freak.

Flop back in chair, heart racing, knees shaking. But I got it out, made the confession. May I shut up now? I’ve said more than enough. Lost control there a bit.

That would be me if such a thing as CFA—Control Freaks Anonymous--existed. And Since it doesn’t, however, God had to take more drastic steps with me.

What is a control freak? Pretty much the most common definition one gets upon a Google search is: “One who has an obsessive need to exert control over people and situations.”

Hey, sounds like a good trait for an author. I get to manipulate other people’s lives all day. What fun!

What a terrible trait for an author. I have little control over editors, the market, readers.

Anti Control Freak Lesson One:
I couldn’t control when I made my first sale. I could control what I wrote, how good it was, and I couldn’t force an editor to pick up the phone and say, “We want your book.” Not for the first, the second, the third. . .

It’s enough to drive a control freak nuts. I did everything right. Why, why, why?

We hate these words, and they are sooo true—God’s timing. Gerrrrrr. (Insert whine) I want my timing and it’s now.

In 2006, God gave me a powerful message: “I’m going to break you so I can fix you.” Sounds painful? Yes, it was. Two years of almost getting there, with a second book sold, a couple of essays sold, an article sold, and then a major writing award for my first book. Followed by nothing.

Because I thought I had it all in hand and took over again.

On a secular album I own, one of the songs has these lines I found amazingly profound, though simple:

You can surrender
Without a prayer
But never really pray
Pray without surrender
(Neil Peart, “Resist”)

That was me. I wasn’t about to surrender, and without surrendering my will, my control to God’s, any victory proved hollow. Amazing what things happened after I started surrendering my will to be published, to write full-time.

AntiControl Freak Lesson Two:

Surrender doesn’t stop with one’s career; it must carry into one’s whole life.

In my manuscript I just turned in, the second midwife book, I took a woman who wants to be mistress of her own life, has the money and the skills to do so, and put her in a situation where she has no authority, no money, no friends to whom she can run. I give her a brief glimpse of freedom, and snatch it away from her. And then I have some potentially deadly consequences to her trying to manipulate matters right to the end so she can see the consequences of her need to control.

It was the most difficult book I ever wrote, and is maybe the best or worst I’ve written. I’m too emotionally raw from writing it to figure that one out, so will leave it to my oh-so-delicate editor to tell me. All I know is that it took me longer to write than anything I’ve ever produced. Some days, each word I typed felt like someone was using a grater on my soul, peeling back the layers shred by shred, kind of like those things do on one’s knuckles.

Why was it so difficult? Because if I have ever put myself into a heroine, it’s Phoebe Lee.

Phoebe has a couple of brief, but significant appearances in Lady in the Mist, but I didn’t realize I was going to torture her as I ended up doing when she slipped into one of the seats at the table—literally. When I started writing her story, though, I had been living in a place I not so affectionately call Azkaban for a year. (No, I’m not really a prisoner.)

Despite many prayers from me and my friends, things got worse instead of better. Suffice it to say, I’ve been set down in a place with no way out, my freedom curtailed, my friends hundreds to thousands of miles away, even the language not one I know. But it was an excellent career move for my husband, so I followed like /Rebecca, which is where my similar traits with that lady probably end. We don’t know if Rebecca regretted her decision, if she wanted to go back to her family, her familiar watering hole.

Mine was Starbucks. It lay across the street from me—literally. I could be there in five minutes, if I had to wait for both lights to cross the intersection. If I ran out of milk or bread or ice cream, I had a CVS a block away. Don’t feel like cooking? Thai, Indian, superb pizza delivered to my door. Holiday and I’m missing a key ingredient? Grocery store three blocks away. And Macy’S shoe department was even closer than Starbucks. Shall we talk about the Metro (the DC subway system) a block away, a church I liked in the theater also across the street? Or what about Amtrak, National Airport, and about anything I could imagine wanting and lots of things I didn’t within a five-mile radius? Taxis came when I called. I could walk. I had a gym in my building. . .

Yes, I had control.

So God sends me to what is essentially another country. No taxis. No way to walk anywhere, an unreliable public transit system, Starbucks on the other side of town, no church, no friends, nowhere to go anyway. . .

A nearly complete loss of control. I’d like to say here that I’ve learned to take this situation with grace and peace. My friends would know I’m lying if I did. On those days when I think I’ll cry myself into a husk, the one thing that keeps me going is that I know God wants us here. I don’t know why. I may never know why. And He doesn’t waste our time or His without a purpose. Not a good thing in the life plan of a control freak. A good thing in the life of someone who wants to live in God’s will.

Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes wanted to be a writer since knowing what one was. Her first book won the National Readers Choice Award in 2007, and her third book was a Carol Award finalist in 2010. Between December of 2008 and January of 2010, she sold thirteen books to Barbour Publishing, Avalon Books, and Baker/Revell, making her total sales fifteen. Recently, she added a novella to that collection, as well as having her first book with Baker/Revell, Lady in the Mist, picked up by Crossings Book Club, and three of her books chosen for large print editions by Thorndike Press. She has been a public speaker for as long as she can remember; thus, only suffers enough stage fright to keep her sharp. In 2002, while in graduate school for writing fiction, she began to teach fiction in person and online. She lives in Texas with her husband, two dogs, and too many cats even for her.


  1. Awesome post, Laurie. Thanks for sharing from the heart.

    I'm sure this new book that was so hard to write will be your best in the long run. Might just need a little extra editing in the short run since you were so emotionally invested. I wrote a book last year where one of the main characters shared my issues, and it took a few extra rounds of editing to pound that portion into shape because it was harder for me to be objective about it.

  2. "I'm going to break you so I can fix you."

    I can almost feel my exterior self crumbling...
    Control freaks come in all shapes and sizes, yes??
    When will I learn that God doesn't care about how my life looks... He just wants my heart.

    Thank you Laurie!

    Dina, wow, I can see how writing a character with shared personal issues could be really difficult! It's great that you could push through it!!!

  3. okay, I can't wait for book #2 now. I hope someday to let myself write a character that leads me in such a cleansing and renewing process.

    Thanks Laurie Alice!

  4. I had to think about this one for a while today. I'm definitely not a "control freak" in the sense of wanting to control others. far as wanting to control my own life and my environment...guilty.

  5. Wonderful post, Laurie. Just yesterday my daughter said something about this season of my life being one of letting go of control over my children. If we hadn't been in a public setting I would have curled up on the floor and sobbed, she was so on target.
    It's funny how we control freaks never think we're control freaks, but if you ask anyone around us...
    Thanks, Laurie!

  6. Wow, very touching and insightful post, Laurie Alice. He's it, though, the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega. Last year I walked through that valley and I am glad you were there to email me encouragement. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Laurie Alice, You have come through shining. You are an inspiration. I don't think there is anyone out there that is more helpful and giving of their time than you. And it doesn't matter who that person is. No matter how you started out, my friend, you have turned into a real gem!

  8. That you are willing to fit in with your husband's plans and put his career first speaks louder than anything else about your sterling character, Laurie Alice. That is modern wisdom's version of career suicide, and yet the Lord has managed to bless you. ;) May God grant you your hearts' desires in this next season.

  9. Thank you, Laurie Alice for sharing this.

    I learned a long time ago - while in the military - that I couldn't control much in this world, so I try to roll with whatever is thrown at me. Not that I still don't try, mind you, but I handle it better the older I get.

    Bless you,

    Anita Mae.

  10. Thanks for your transparency, Laurie Alice. It's not easy to be so open, but it's usually helpful. I'm like a lot of others in that I don't particularly want to control others, but I do want to be able to master my own fate. The prayer of my heart for the past year or so has been 2 things. 1. Order my steps in your word, Lord and 2. Not my will but thine.

  11. Thanks for sharing your heart, Laurie Alice. I think many of us can relate to the desire for control. And because of how personal it is for you, I think that probably bodes well for the impact of Phoebe's story on readers! (I'm so excited she is the heroine of the next book. I kept wondering what happened to her!)

  12. Laurie Alice, what a wonderful post.

    But I have to say, the thing that'll stick with me forever is the Rush quote. My husband is a Rush fanatic and has used that quote for ministry purposes, as well!

  13. LOL, Susanne, on your husband being a Rush fan. I haven't met one of those in ages. I've seen them live fourteen times and own all but one of their albums.

    For being so very secular, their music has spoken to me many times.

    Ann, What I do to Phoebe is a prime of example of making things worse and worse for your protagonists. I just couldn't help myself. We put ourherones through things that would break most people, but I guess that's why they're heroines--the don't break.

  14. Laurie Alice, you and my DH will get along just fine. He loves seeing Rush live and has quite an affection for them! Yes, for being secular, they do have some interesting lyrics. The song "Free Will" is actually part of his testimony.

    I also wanted to tell you that I have struggled with control issues, and several times I've felt like God has allowed me to be utterly lost. The only thing I can figure out is that He wants me to depend on Him utterly and turn to Him and allow Him to be in control. I will pray for you and for myself in this area!

  15. Hope I meet your DH one day, Susanne. Growing up listening to canadian radio, since I was so close to the border, I heard a lot of them on the radio. "Free Will" "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Isn't that how it is? We think we're in control by not choosing one side or the other, and yet we've made a choice, which means we haven't taken control at all. LOL


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