Friday, August 26, 2016

Visual Results Register

I know, I'm a day late. No matter, this week has been a long one. First day of school and trying to get adjusted to getting up at the - how does Claire Jane refer to it? Oh, yes - butt-crack o' dawn in order to make sure I got not only what I needed done for my classroom (which I didn't, but that is what it is), but what the other teachers needed.
Big reveal of the dragon I needed to paint this week
Details below!
That's beside the point though. My big talk today is on results and how they register with me. This may also touch on how they register with others, yet my focus is on me so I can prepare myself for the analysis I have to do in the morning for Week 7 of the Make Writing a Habit I Can't Kick Challenge. And what I need to talk about is how my learning style impacts my sense of success.

Over a decade ago, I learned about a concept called Learning Styles as it was described by Dawna Markova. I'm not going into her information, just suffice to say, based on her descriptors and "testing" tool, I am a VKA (Visual-Kinesthetic-Auditory) Learner. Meaning I am a Visual - Conscious Learner. I can see the clutter around me and it is a total distraction from my clear thinking task completion ability. It also means I often measure my success based on the visual data I "see".

My "thinking" mind is my Kinesthetic - Subconscious and my Auditory - Unconscious, which both can be shut down if my Conscious mind is overwhelmed with Visual stimuli/input. When it comes to writing, I see the scenes in my head, yet I don't connect with the emotions of "feelings" in the scenes until I print the pages I write out and hand edit the documents. Which is why I tend to recycle - a lot!!

How does that relate to my need for results? It means, for the most part, my barometer of task success is directly based on the visual input I have regarding that project. My dragon became one of my "success" measuring tools.

When I posted my Week 5 & 6 Analysis on Saturday, I mentioned going to paint a dragon. That was directly connected to my teaching day job. Five years of writer's block affected me in more ways than I'd thought, as I mentioned on Saturday. Yet, I recognized that my desire for creativity had also been stifled in those five years. Perhaps that's why my dragon was such an important project, that even usurped my regular preparation plans for my classroom. And I can't be angry about it, because - I love my dragon!

It's interesting how when I began the project I knew going in it would take time, yet I didn't begrudge myself that time. Yes, It meant staying up later than I should to write and edit, and it meant actual physical pain, because my body really can't tolerate standing on a step ladder with my arms extended over my head for nearly an hour at a time. Or kneeling on a hard oak bookcase to reach areas for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. When you consider I was also running around working on lesson plans, fixing computers, distributing equipment, etc, my project should have been shelved or set aside to do in steady increments. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful teacher helping me do a lot of the work since we'll be sharing the computer lab I teach in this year.

Just like my writing I couldn't set my dragon aside for later. Not now.

I've told people this story at least a dozen times, so bear with me. When I wrote Mike's and Lyssa's story (Originally titled Midnight Masquerade after the Club party that starts the story) I sat down and wrote it over the course of perhaps two weeks. I came home from my teaching job, opened my laptop and simply poured out the scenes as they came to me. Then I put them together and set the book aside. It sat for a few months, if I remember correctly, before I pulled it out and read it. And hated it. Of the 68,000 words, I kept about 10,000, then proceeded to completely rewrite the story. When I turned it into my publisher, it was 74,000 words and stronger for the gutting.

In my first round of edits I added another 20,000 words to the manuscript even after I removed the first three chapters. By the time it went to print (ebook really) it was 96,000+ words.

How does this connect back to my need for Visual Results? That first manuscript was a success to me because it was complete - in my mind at 68,000 words. Then, when I kinesthetically connected to it by reading the hard copy, I realized I'd written the story incorrectly. While I panicked a bit after taking out so many pages, I felt a huge sense of relief when I realized I added even more to the story after my first rewrite.

Admittedly this was nearly 6 years ago, and I've learned a lot since then, yet that visual measuring tool still helps me feel positive about myself and my progress on any project. And painting my dragon, gave me the sense of accomplishment and success I wanted and needed going into the beginning of the school year. I not only painted the dragon, but the teacher helping me finished off the borders around the two 3 feet by 6 feet dry erase walls we created.

This is the wall directly behind my desk.
Like my writing, I now do my planning ahead of time. For writing, I use the Down 'N' Dirty Plotting System Claire Jane developed and I teach (have a class this September online with HCRW if your interested.)

For my dragon project I started with the blank wall behind my desk and the idea of the picture I wanted to paint. After taping off the lowest section of the wall I wanted to paint to, I lightly sanded the surface and wiped it clean with a lint-free cloth so the latex interior paint would stick better.

After gaining permission from my supervisors on Thursday, I did this with the intention of returning to the school after a Friday meeting 90 miles away. I didn't make it in on Friday night.

Friday night, I looked for the perfect image of a dragon with a computer to replace the original dragon in the picture I'd shown my supervisors (the original was much scarier). I arrived at the school about 20 minutes after I posted my Saturday blog (around 7:30 a.m. EST, I believe). I increased the dimensions of the dragon, the castle in the background, but not the tree, and pieced the three items together.

One of the whiteboard walls measured and taped for the border
Knowing I'd need to take time from painting the dragon to allow the paint to dry a bit, I prepped the whiteboards for their borders. I measured 4 inches from the edge of the white board painted area, taped it off then sanded and wiped it clean just like I'd done my dragon wall. Since the borders wouldn't take as long as the dragon, I painted the first coat so it would have time to dry a bit while I was working on my dragon.

Then, using a document camera and LCD Projector, I carefully copied the outline from the picture. And started to paint. First the grass.
I forgot to get a picture just of the outline.
Then the leaves of the tree, followed by the tree trunk, then the computer and the castle. The dragon body, followed by his wings, his underbelly, tongue and nostril. I polished him off with his blue eye and the gray pupil.
Final version when I went home Saturday night

The fun part of the painting was the fact that I had to mix all the paints to make the different colors. The only colors I had going in were red, dark blue, black, purple, yellow, and white.

So I mixed the blue and yellow for the large part of the grass, then I added more yellow for the leaves of the tree (which I regretted not having saved the original you can seen in the way I filled the edges of the painting) then even more to give a little more texture to the tree. I got the brown of the tree trunk by adding some red to the leaves-green (in a separate container, thank goodness). The orange of the underbelly was made with the red and yellow. The gray of the castle and computer was from the mixing of black and white. The sky was from dark blue and white. The rosy color of the horns and claws came from mixing some of the orange with purple and black.

white around the whiteboard
Between the layers of the dragon, I added a second layer of white to the whiteboard borders (although the white wasn't exactly white). Once both boards were done and I had my dragon done, I finally went home a little before 5 in the evening. I'd even forgotten to eat lunch, so food was a top priority.

dry brushed border
On Sunday, I slept late and didn't get to the school until after 9 in the morning. I worked on the whiteboards while I tried to figure out what was bothering me about the dragon wall (here was my Visual Conscious "pinging" that something wasn't quite right.)
Using the left over brown, I did a dry brush technique (use a little bit of paint then drag a dry paint brush through it to create texture) over the white border around the whiteboard.

much better :)
By that time, I finally realized I didn't like the white space around my dragon. I tried adding more blue to the leaves-green, but didn't get quite the color I wanted. I used that color to fill in the grassy area, then daubed a bit in the tree to add layers.

Each layer had to dry for 24 hours before I could put anything on top of it. So, again I had to wait for it to dry. While I waited, I cleaned up the brushes and washed out the paint containers I'd used that I wouldn't need any more. Then, I went home and worked on my editing, like a good little writer should.

Almost there!
Monday morning I was in the building by 5 a.m. to get the words written and painted on the wall. Using the projector and document camera, I outlined the words then realized I didn't really have a brush narrow enough to fill in the letters and the detail lines. While waiting to talk to someone about the best brush to use to do the detail outlines to give the painting depth, I texted the teacher sharing my room to ask if she wanted her whiteboard to have a brown border. She said yes, so I used up the brown and cleaned up my brushes and the paint container of brown. By 8 in the morning I was bored and decided to go out to the paint warehouse store and pick up some brushes myself. Of course they didn't work the way I wanted, but I was able to get the majority of the details done without ruining my dragon, and the letters filled in.

paw prints added
Next to be done were the paw prints for the borders. Since my border was done, after the other teacher and I agreed on a style, I made a template and had to adjust the size what seemed like a dozen times before they finally fit. She did the painting of the paw prints, then we worked on what we needed to for the day (by this time it was nearly 4 p.m. and time to go).

Another early morning for me on Tuesday, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and the other people who'd come into my classroom were amazed at how neat my dragon was and the whiteboard walls. Before anyone else arrived, I traced the paw prints around the other teacher's board then started in on the fine outlining of the letters on my dragon wall. By the time I had to leave for an appointment at 11 a.m. I only had about five words left to outline...and my knees were killing me. After a quick lunch, I finished the words and my wall was done! The other teacher had painted the paw prints around her board, outlined the paw prints on my board, and went back to outline the prints on her board being careful of the paint even though it had been drying for several hours.
All done - whew!!
Every step of the way through this dragon wall, I used visual cues to determine if I was finished or needed to do more - add more.

It's the same with my writing. The word count gives me a feeling of success and that I'm doing the right thing. If I don't have word count to go by, then pages edited helps give me that positive pick-me-up. 

It's what keeps me going through the pain, and the exhaustion, and the anxiety that inevitably crops up. And - while I might not meet my deadlines every time - I will meet my goals.

Until tomorrow or Sunday,
Have a great day!!


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