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The trials of the introverted activist
"If I had the solution for quieting that frightened inner voice, I'd write a book on that, and I'd sell it in an instant."

by Shannon Drury

The words rattled around my head so forcefully that my brain felt bruised: I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this!

Just months earlier, my cheeks burned with excitement, not fear, as I pounded away at my keyboard to enter a panel idea for Netroots Minnesota. "Feminist Activism in a Gone-Rogue Age," I called it, and as I typed I congratulated myself for my cleverness. Fast forward to the morning before my gone-rogue panel would begin-off the keyboard and into the world, I heard that voice again. I can't do this! The negative self-talk I experienced is fairly common among women, of course, conditioned as we are to doubt both our abilities and our potential. But this voice wasn't a product of patriarchy alone-it was a frank evaluation of my temperament. You see, I am an introvert.

I am an introvert, and I am an activist. At times these two selves integrate flawlessly. The writing career I enjoy today was sparked by friends who suggested I start a blog on MySpace, which should give you an idea of how long I've been at this. At other times, my desire to network, to strategize and to act runs afoul of my innate discomfort with unfamiliar groups of people. Try this experiment with your own introverted friend (you do have one, as we make up 25 percent of the population): Ask her if she's more comfortable writing a speech or delivering it. The former she could do with no problem. The latter? I bet she'll blush, stammer and sneak toward the nearest exit, if she doesn't just laugh in your face.

For 18 months I've worked on a political memoir that shares its name with that original MySpace blog: "The Radical Housewife." Writing the book, all 350 pages of it, was a pleasure-in fact, I could have started another full-length manuscript the very day I finished. I didn't, though, because if I want to see "The Radical Housewife" published in my lifetime, I have to market it and myself to unfamiliar groups of people.

Cue that inner voice, with its odd combination of rationality and panic.

As I move towards my goal of publishing my book, I gird myself with how-to books, seminars and consultations with publishing experts. One editor expressed sympathy for my plight, but insisted I get over it. "No one writes to remain anonymous," she huffed. I admitted that she was right; I remain unusually delighted whenever I run a Google search on my name. I could have chosen anonymity on that MySpace blog, but I didn't. I could have just showed up for Netroots Minnesota just hoped someone thought up a feminist panel, but I didn't.


I wish I could end this column with a life-shattering, life-changing insight for other introverts out there, activist or otherwise. If I had the solution for quieting that frightened inner voice, I'd write a book on that, and I'd sell it in an instant. Introversion is a part of me, as fixed a part of my makeup as my blue eyes. I admit to my fears in hopes that this small act of courage will build upon that previous one at Netroots Minnesota, which in turn built upon others. In the same way, the feminist activism I do today is built upon the work of the foremothers who earned me the right to vote and the right to publish my writing under my own name.

While reading a book by an artist I admire a great deal, I stumbled upon the following quote: "Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent," it read. "Leave the house before you find something worth staying in for." The author of those words? The British graffiti artist Bansky-real name unknown. Maybe I can do this, after all.

Shannon Drury lives in Minneapolis with her family and is a self-described radical housewife.

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