On Beyond Writer’s Block: A Graphic Story

By Mahmoud ShaltoutMahmoud teaches scientific thinking, public health and creativity to undergraduate students. A passionate comics fan as well as published comic artist, Mahmoud uses comics often in teaching and blogging. Mahmoud has lived in various places across the Middle East, and in the UK, so he’s basically a third culture kid. Mahmoud loves music, film and art. Tweet Mahmoud at @mac_toot

You can read and access the text of this graphic story here.

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer's Block Page 1

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer’s Block Page 1

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer's Block Page 2

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer’s Block Page 2

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer's Block Page 3

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer’s Block Page 3

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer's Block Page 4

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer’s Block Page 4

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer's Block Page 5

Mahmoud Shaltout: Writer’s Block Page 5

An Inspiration: Make Writing … Digital

Either in a digital webcomic space (see this resource of various online comic creators), or at your table, with pencil and paper, sketch out a story in graphic form. Keep the art simple, if you need to. Stick people? They’re fine. As you draw and write, notice how the visual can help inform the written, and vice versa. What story can you tell?
We hope you will share your work across the various Digital Writing Month spaces that you inhabit. That could be right here at the Digital Writing Month blog; at your own blog or writing space; on Twitter with the #DigiWriMo hashtag; in the DigiWriMo Google Plus Community; at the DigiWriMo Facebook page; or wherever you find yourself writing digitally.

12 thoughts on “On Beyond Writer’s Block: A Graphic Story

  1. OMG – this is S O A W E S O M E !

    I’d love to be able to draw this good.

    I love the multidimensionality in this.
    Pag 2 e.g. is fabulous, the broken light bulb – being part of the finger – poking the poor floored lad.

    • The poor floored lad thanks you for the comments. I am especially fond of that arrangement you mentioned. It wasn’t planned but a lightbulb moment changed all that. :) You could always get that good with practice, so get a notepad and draw away !

  2. You nailed it. My 7th novel comes out in the spring, the 8th is in the works, and with every one of them I’ve had to deal with bouts of writer’s block. While I don’t (always) jet off to Egypt, I’ve learned to give my brain some space to breathe. It’s that space that allowed you to hear the inspiration for the next idea. Now get writing!

    • Thanks Charles and thanks for being one of the people who have inspired my comic art the most. Maybe X you should consider jetting off to Egypt soon, and yes, the space has really helped. As for the writing, already on it.!!! :)

  3. Mahmoud
    Your use of the graphic to show your story of struggle with writing works so well … I wonder if putting yourself in your own comic is difficult? Are you happy with how you represented yourself? It occurs to me that there are layers to this: how you capture your identity in a comic and then how that identity gets shared to global audience when you publish online … I guess I am harkening back to Rusul’s post the other day about the shifting duality of online.offline identities that we have.
    Thanks for sharing your amazing work with us. May we all have avalanches of inspiration each day.

    • Thanks for the feedback Kevin. Thinking about this in retrospect, I didn’t really find it too difficult to portray myself in my comic. I guess I could also argue that with respect to digital duality, both our online and our offline personas are one and the same. I felt like that with mine, and I felt I poured a lot of myself into my own character (i.e. My comic tastes, the evolution of my style, my art and literature tastes). I rarely draw something -even if I’m not a character- without putting so much of myself into it. It just doesn’t work for me otherwise. This also brings me to another point: it also depends on what the reader perceives as the authors persona. Would be interesting to find out what people think of various authors through their work, and compare with authors self- perception, as well as those of family and friends.

  4. Hi Mahmoud – I LOVE this! I think it’s amazing how you’ve used the visual medium to tell – and enrich the telling of – the story. I followed the link to read your text version, then the comic version…and as I progressed through it, really noticed and appreciated how the small additions in the comic (mostly your thought bubbles, extra captions, + images) added just that bit extra to the story compared with just the straight text version. It kind of…humanised it, and added personality. I find that really interesting.

    • Thank you Tanya for the feedback. I’m so glad you loved it. I am all about the little additions and they do often come randomly and unplanned for ; I generally write a basic script and then leave it open to any small- or even big changes (last minute ) that come along. It’s that spontaneity which makes comic creation so much fun for me.

  5. Mahmoud,
    How magnificent to see it transformed from text to visuals! I wonder how long it takes you to sketch these ideas? What is your work process like, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you sketch in pencil first or is it just spontaneously ink-and-paper? What tools do you use? Sharpie? Microns? Sketchbook? Paper? Wacom tablet? Sorry, I like to doodle and paint myself and I’m always curious about how other people sketch… :)

    • Thanks Yin :) the beauty of comic art is that each person has their own style. Mine is as follows: I basically formulate the idea in my head. I found that rough drafts don’t really work for me, and while drawing I get ideas which I implement on the spot. I get bored of drawing something over twice. However, I pencil first, then ink (using Fabre castell pit pens) and if the comic is noir, then I use sharpies and posca to blacken. I then letter my work. I strictly use paper for all drawings, and if the comic is coloured, I scan into photoshop and colour there. I prefer to colour using acrylics, but it is time consuming and relies on layering which takes a day or two. Given I draw for publications with deadlines, I usually find photoshop a very professional colouring timesaver. I would love to know how you draw too.

      • Hi again, Mahmoud, I paint best with soft pastels (not oil-based). I have quite a collection of colors. I haven’t quite tried using acrylic too much. Watercolor and ink are not my medium of choice. When I sketch, I tend to use pencil or charcoal first, if the sketch is an important one. If it’s not so, I start with ink and hope for the best! I use black/sepia micron pens and sharpies.

        As for coloring, I don’t do too much of this with ink nor electronically. I don’t have a Wacom tablet, just a tiny Bamboo tablet. I find the pen not too sensitive so maybe someday I’ll learn to get better with it. I prefer to draw or paint using actual brushes, not electronic ones. Nothing beats holding a real pen or brush. 😛

  6. Mahmoud has graciously allowed us to take his comic story and move it into Voicethread for collaboratively audio and annotations. Come join us. You can read the script of the comic in your own voice. You can add commentary. You can draw on the comic, or add text to the side.
    You are invited to collaborate.

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