The smart money never would have bet that Shift Journal would come as far as it has. This was the case for a number of reasons, only one of which I want to talk about below. And for as far as we’ve come, there’s still much further to go. There’s so much yet undone in fact that it’s not hard to imagine this as a full-time job. Most of what I’ve been doing here recently though amounts to keeping an eye out for the most compelling writing coming from an autistic perspective, and offering it a signal boost by providing it with a first or (usually) second home. One of the criteria I like to apply to a piece is whether it leaves one with a sense of “That needed to be said.” And by now there’s a network of folks who share this sensibility well enough to bring to my attention enough new content to keep us at least close to five new entries per week. It shouldn’t be hard work.
What would be hard work? Providing Andrew Lehman’s book Evolution, Autism, and Social Change with the promotional and marketing effort it never received due to it being published just as his stroke occurred. Corralling that manuscript into Kindle ebook format. Pursuing writers outside of the autistic community and convincing them to contribute. Spending significant time seeking out new autistic bloggers who are saying what needs to be said. Spending significant time courting and combing the archives of particular established autistic bloggers whose writing has yet to appear at Shift. Soliciting other publications – outside of the autistic community – to republish pieces that have appeared at Shift. Networking into the relevant scientific communities and letting them know we’re here. Networking into the online tech communities, as they are far ahead of the curve when it comes to awareness of autism’s pervasive reach as a cultural force. And, writing consistently myself and further promoting the perspective that Andrew and I share. While I may have plenty to say, and love the act of writing, I’ve never had the gift of writing both quickly and well.
As it happens though, that there be five posts per week was the sole explicit imperative I received from Andrew Lehman before his stroke, during the weeks and months he was slowly but surely transferring responsibility for the site to me – all while contributing at least one and sometimes two or three posts each week himself. This imperative was sound advice from a seasoned website developer and it has served the site well. It stands in contrast though with my clear stipulation to him at the outset that I would have barely enough time each week to contribute one post.
How about I introduce you to the man behind the curtain here. Close readers who followed all the links when Shift Journal was tagged for the Versatile Blogger Award by Clay of Comet’s Corner would have arrived at his site for part of my response (now available only via Google Cache), which explained:
Shift Journal … is run via an illicit wifi tether from a rooted smartphone, out of the bunk of an aging Peterbilt semi-tractor hitched to a stolen flatbed trailer stacked high with live caged chickens.
Stripped of red-herring hyperbole, that sentence actually reads:
Shift Journal is run via an illicit wifi tether from a rooted smartphone, out of the bunk of a 2011 Freightliner semi-tractor hitched to a 53′ dry van trailer filled with well, could be anything. All I really care about is what it weighs and how likely it is to shift if I stop or take a curve too fast.
Which I share with you here and now by way of explaining:
that I have a 14-hour a day employment commitment;
that Shift Journal was launched during an economic slump during which I was not being called on to work five-day weeks of 14-hour days;
that smart and aggressive contract bidding over the past two years has gradually pulled my employer out of that slump;
that thanks to the last-minute legislative rush that went into passing the hours-of-service regulations I work under, a 14-hour day can quite legally be much longer;
that I have a house and a family I am able to tend to only on the weekends;
that what I have done with this site all along has been as much as I have been able to do;
that at this time I am just about tapped out as far as time and energy I have to devote to this project.
Like the proverbial frog in the slowly warming pot of water, I have at long last come to the sudden realization that – at least for the nonce — I am well and truly cooked.
Oh, but did I mention that I love driving, and that trucking comes highly recommended (by me) as a career choice for those with an autistic bent of mind? Chances are you personally, as a truck driver, will never fall into custodianship of a piece of science that has the potential to turn the fields of evolutionary biology, neuro-science, and a few others 90 degrees to their sides. Nor is it likely you will need to plan for finding yourself responsible for an online journal that leads the way in terms of civil discourse about autistic experience, never mind one that points the way towards an evolution-based shift in consciousness that may well resound for millennia to come. You will however have solitude in abundance, you will be valued on the basis of your workplace competence rather than your social agility, and I can almost promise you your biggest challenges will be limited to the likes of rush-hour traffic, trucks that feature advanced satellite communications yet have windshield wipers that are useless in the snow, and mastering the vital art of sleep-debt management.
Speaking of driver fatigue, there are things I could share about what it’s taken to keep up regular posting that might well have come back to haunt me during say, the discovery phase of a civil procedure had I ever been involved in an accident. So as we go forward, and things here run in fits and starts and at times seem to have stopped altogether, I want you to feel just that tiny bit safer out there on the roads – and keep watching this space.