Jay Lake’s Process of Writing 2005-2010


In early 2012 I asked Jennifer Brozek about doing a short stint as her editorial intern thinking she’d have me reading slush and doing a few odd jobs on an anthology or something. Shortly after I asked her this, she asked if I’d want to be the editorial intern on a project collecting the writing advice of Jay Lake’s blog.

Unknown to Jennifer, Jay Lake’s blog is one of the first writer blogs I started following on a regular basis when I got serious about writing. So I THOUGHT I knew what I was getting into.

My job for the project, was to read everything Jay had ever blogged from 2005-2010 and collect all of the entries related to writing. I figured it’d take a few days of work… Have I mentioned that Jay Lake is the reason I started using a RSS reader in the first place? He generally blogs at LEAST three entries EVERY DAY, sometimes this stretches to nine or more entries if a topic needs periodic revisiting and linking to throughout the day. 

In a happy fateful decision, I chose to read backwards in time, starting with the most recent entries and working toward his earlier ones. The further I got back in his career, the more his writing issues sounded like the ones I had. That’s a pretty comforting, yet terrifying gift to get as a writer. I’m on the right path, but no, it never does end. 

He doesn’t tell you HOW to write. He tells you how HE writes and leaves it up to you to figure it out. Mostly he’s talking out loud to himself trying to figure out his own process. It’s a strange book, he didn’t write these blog entries standing behind a podium and lecturing, he wrote them as a conversation with himself, and the readers of his blog. If you like things clean and neat and organized, this isn’t the book for you. Sometimes he raises the questions without giving any answers.

We’re all looking for the answers, and sometimes it’s just nice to hear the stories of someone ahead of you on the path even if the answers they found aren’t the ones you need.

It’s been a year since I read these words of Jay’s, and now going back over them I realize how many of his little terms and descriptions of the writing process I’ve picked up and internalized. I absolutely wouldn’t be the writer I am in 2013 if I hadn’t worked on this project. I also wouldn’t become the author I hope to be in the future. 

Thanks Jay.

2 thoughts on “Jay Lake’s Process of Writing 2005-2010

  1. I have admired Jay’s writing process for some time. Were you aware that he is a unit of writing measure?

    *Lake = a unit of measurement of either a writer’s speed of word productivity (one Lake is 2,500 words a day), or total word count (a 100,000 word novel is 40 Lakes long). Named after the much-admired Jay Lake, who said once that his goal was 2,500 words a day (which he often beats). For a longer meditation on this useful writing nomenclature, see newroticgirl who coined the terminology, and my own conversion of Lakes into metric units.


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