Dani Shapiro
February 24, 2007

Books and Babies

A writer friend sent the following email: Can you imagine if our children, in utero, were “reviewed” before birth…. ‘So-and-so will be a sweet child, great sense of humor and yet will harbor deep resentment and struggle with learning. A nice achievement for Ms. Writer friend. A sparkling debut’.

Why is it that books are so much like babies? That bringing a book into the world feels like a difficult, arduous birth? Whenever anyone asks me which of my own books is my favorite, I feel like they’re asking me to choose my favorite child. (Well, I do discount the first two novels and am, in fact, glad they’re out of print. According to today’s theory — and just to carry this way of thinking a step further — that means I disown my first two children…which I guess in this case I’m saying I do.) But just to completely beat this analogy to death, books are also like babies in that the writer (at least this writer) forgets what it was like to go through the long, dark tunnel (no pun intended) of the months prior to publication when nothing is happening. It feels as if something–anything–should be happening. One wonders if anything is ever, in fact, going to happen, and one questions the entire enterprise, but of course, it is far too late for questioning.

Which brings me to yoga. Specifically, to my current favorite yoga pose: tree pose. Each day (well, each day that I unroll my mat) at a certain point in my yoga practice I find myself in tree pose, balancing on one leg, my gaze focused outside my bedroom window at the meadow in front of my house, which happen to be blessed with some beautiful old trees. Bending is a part of tree pose. One leans as far as one can to the side, swaying, continuing to balance, arms extended like the limbs of…well, like the limbs of a tree, head loose and heavy. The object–at least as I understand it–is the willingness to fall. And I’ve realized in recent months that, paradoxically, the more I’m willing to fall, the further I can bend, without, in fact, falling. I just train my eyes on the old trees out front, the gnarled branches curving out in all directions, and remind myself to locate that willingness.