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Charles Deas: Long Jakes, "The Rocky Mountain Man" (1844)
"Thank you for helping to make my old year happier!"

I had to be taught to appreciate. I was not born with the skill. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I learned the first thing about how to congruently accomplish appreciating, and I still feel at a disadvantage when challenged, as I am this morning, to extend some genuine Appreciatings. This being the last day of this year, I've decided to attempt the opposite of what Auld Lang Sine asks. Should old acquaintance be forgot? I suggest that old acquaintances should properly be warmly recognized with Appreciations on the last day of the year. Every pundit known to man and beast has already submitted their regrets for the year now passing, for it was a remarkably disappointing year in many respects—most, maybe, but hardly entirely. For me it was a year of tremendous personal growth influenced by my encouraging audience, the majority of whom distinguished themselves as repeat offenders, showing up and even coming back again and again and again. What gives?

I started PureSchmaltz as a form of giving.
I envisioned it as a free state within the Internet's burgeoning commercial real estate. Recognizing that my work would likely never qualify as anything like a commercial success, I quite deliberately decided to sidestep this apparent barrier to entry and simply produce, not for profit but for my own good if for nobody else's. Unsuccessful striving seems a recipe for self destruction, so I simply declared myself successful enough without waiting for any marketplace to validate my assertion. Later, I figured, if a market chose to recognize my presence, it might find me already developed and not simply a haggard wannabe. I punched my own ticket, an audacious act on the face of it. I decided that I would not wait, my time a wasting resource, and simply proceed 'as if.' Here I am. Here we are. Still 'as-iffing.'

A few years ago, my dear friend Franklin Taggert invited me to attend his Audience! workshop. Franklin's philosophy for marketing creative work excludes selling in any fashion. He suggests that an artist first needs presence, well before commercial acceptance, and worse, that the pursuit of commercial success tends to inhibit recognition rather than enhance it. He says that one simply must give it away first, maybe last, maybe always. The benefit of this approach seems that it encourages an artist to produce art rather than pursue what few artists seem very naturally gifted at achieving. The remaining question being, for whom might artists produce besides themselves? Franklin says, for their Audience!

Audiences attract themselves to an artist's work. Their first encounter might seem an act of synchronicity, they just seemed to bump into it via the ever-elusive Chance Encounter. The artist might know better, that he had been sort of setting up the accidental convergence by maintaining visibility. He stood up in the crowd and showed off a little bit. His intention might not have even been all that pure, but pure recognition. He just 'happened' to be there on purpose, for the purpose of attracting Audience!, an audacious act. I sent a few invitations after setting up a private Facebook group, though I had been blindly blogging for a decade and a half before that. The PureSchmaltz Group solidified something previously elusive. It provided a destination, a reliable place for an Audience! to congregate and for me to post. It's almost a habit now, me posting and you continuing to show up to apparently see what in the heck he's up to now, or for whatever reason. You keep coming back!

Most mornings, I'm up between three and four wondering what I'm going to write about that day. Many have confided to me that they don't always believe that I start each of my writing days with little notion of what I might say. It's the absolute truth, though I choose a theme to goad me through each quarter. This year, you might remember, I've written about SmallThings, WhatNow?, HowHere, WhatNext, and started HeadingHomeward, each posting a resolution to that morning's mystery now grown to have become a chronicle of this plague year passing. You encouraged my continuing engagement. Had I not fretted over how my absence might disappoint you, I might have convinced myself that it couldn't possibly matter whether I produced or not. I was some mornings so embarrassed at the prospect of you noticing my absence, that I nudged myself forward. Some mornings, I awaken so full of myself that I might have exploded had I not posted that day. Earlier this week, an unfortunate sandwich rendered me stupid for a day, so I missed posting. That announcement attracted a higher 'Seen By" count than almost any other, ever.

I will not discount my contribution to our mutual admiration society, for I admit to being a partner in its continuance. You probably noticed that I don't advertise in this space. I never initiate any GoFundYourself requests. I'm not here for the money. I'm here for the Audience!, the chance to show off in your humbling presence. I pray that I might prove worthy of your attention. I acknowledge that I might not ever actually be worthy, though I might come to prove worthy tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see. I might not have ever been qualified to attract your attention and yet you've given it anyway. My days—like yours, I suspect—have been long and lonely this year. I cannot imagine how much longer and lonelier they would have become had I not enjoyed your continuing Appreciations. I'm watching. I track each posting, witnessing the viewed count climbing. I frequently call up the listing and savor the names I find there, mostly old familiars now, Repeat Offenders, you. I would (and should) list and separately appreciate each one if my meager technology skills allowed that, but this posting, this endeavor, is not about that class of Appreciations. I'd really rather invite each of you over for dinner and a lengthly conversation, the evening ending with me sharing a few of my songs. Absent that, I intend to keep poking along here and appreciating deeply our continuing chance encounters.

Thank you for helping to make my old year happier! See you on the other side …

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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