Books·How I Wrote It

When a throat injury forced Georgia Webber into months of silence, she wrote a comic about it

Georgia Webber talks about how she wrote her first graphic memoir, Dumb.
Dumb is Georgia Webber's first book. (Submitted by Georgia Webber)

Dumb is a graphic memoir by Toronto artist Georgia Webber, who recounts the months she spent in silence recovering from chronic throat pain. Living without a voice proves increasingly challenging, as Webber is forced to leave her customer service job, grows isolated from friends and struggles to heal.

Below, Webber discusses the process of finishing her first book.

After the diagnosis

"There's a shorter story within the first few pages called Aftermath where you see me biking home from the doctor's appointment and processing being called a 'vocal abuser.' Within that experience of crying and trying to figure out what I was going to do, I realized, 'Oh, I can write a comic now' because I finally had something fascinating to me to write about."

Writing is not therapy

"I had a lot of fear and doubt about how much anyone could help me with healing my voice. I usually turn to talking about it when I'm having a problem, and I couldn't do that anymore. I definitely, at the beginning, felt hope, but a very pressured hope, that writing would somehow be the mysterious answer that the doctors couldn't provide. It would be some kind of catharsis or help me understand it in a way that a medical perspective couldn't. I actually ended up writing about how that is not a way to heal. You cannot put a ton of pressure on one method for maybe resolving something. It's a much deeper perspective shift to go from an injury and mourning the way that you used to live to finding that new way to live. Writing was part of it, but it definitely wasn't a magic pill."

A spread from Georgia Webber's book Dumb. (Submitted by Georgia Webber)

Being a silent woman

"I can describe the ways that being a silent woman carries a certain amount of threat or weight to myself. I can describe that to people and they can empathize. They can think about it and say, 'Yeah. If that was me... Interesting.' But if I can write a story that gives readers the sense of being threatened and feeling uncomfortable while they're reading it — I think they understand it better. Having the direct experience of the story is going to have a greater impact and possibly lead to the unfolding of my experiences synthesising somewhere deeper in them than just in the intellectual comprehension of facts."

Puzzle pieces

"I approach my comics writing process as a puzzle. I gather a bunch of pieces and decide what's interesting to me. Some of those pieces are probably already inside of me because I'm mostly interested in reading about internal experiences, and then I just go looking for the other pieces that I think would help me. What's fun is like having all the notes I have made on the table in front of me with a piece of paper and a pen and just trying to fit them together. That's always where I start.

"Once I have a sense of how these pieces are fitting together, then I need to draw to find out if they actually do or to find out how they do. My process is pretty cerebral for a long time. It's really coming from a thoughtful place and then getting expressive as it goes."

Georgia Webber's comments have been edited and condensed.

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