Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Now that the blog has been appropriately cushioned with a First Post (thanks, Dan), I think the rest of us will feel more comfortable jumping in (right guys?). As for introductions, I’m Elly Zupko, one of the so-called “founding members” of the group, so I’ll give a little background on how it all began.

We started getting together in the summer of 2007—just four of us at that first meeting, sitting in the itchy grass in front of the Johns Hopkins University library with the humble goal of completing stories to enter into the City Paper’s Annual Fiction & Poetry Contest. We unofficially nicknamed the group “Writer’s Block” (variants: Writers’ Block and Writers Block—none of us know for sure), since several of our early members lived within blocks of each other in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. It stuck.

We met on lawns. We met at bars. We met at each other’s homes. We even sweet talked our way into a classroom at MICA for a particularly official-feeling meeting. Eventually, the (unspoken) purpose of the group grew into our attempt as individuals and as a group to balance our Big Ideas about writing and art with the devil-in-the-details practicalities of the writing life and, well, life life. The questions are classic: what, where, when, how, why? The answers are never easy.

The group’s amebic roster has since changed and grown, like our purpose. We’ve seen members branch off to start new writing groups, move across the country to enter M.A. programs, and, to our great disappointment, simply disappear. But we’ve also seen new members join and become great contributors to the forward momentum of the group. We’ve learned that creating forward momentum is fertilizer for the writer’s mind, and I think the ultimate, really basic purpose of our group has become to help each other keep going, in the face of rejection, criticism, lack of time, lack of inspiration, lack of support, and the classic illness: Writer’s Block.

To play a bit off Dan’s post, I’d say that the Writer’s Block group started out a bit like an Uncarved Block. It has taken time and hard work and the skillful hands of many artists to really seek out and find what we were going to be, once we got rid of all the stuff that just didn’t belong. Like writing, and like all creative endeavors, what’s left is an amalgam of something that never existed before and something that’s been there all along.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I was thinking of - and, alas, I don't have my Tao of Pooh handy for the citation - was pu, the Uncarved Block of Taoist philosophy, a principle (if I'm remembering it correctly) not unlike the Zen Beginner's Mind. In both cases, the state of blankness is the first necessary step to mastery - a void out of which anything becomes possible.

    Naturally, one's choice of metaphor is itself revealing of certain preconceptions, and writing being famously like everything else, we have our pick of them. Is it an additive art, like sculpting out of clay, where you build up from nothing until you have what you need? Or is it like stonecarving, where you start with a chunk of marble and take away everything that doesn't look like the proverbial elephant? (In practice, of course,it's both.)