Step 1 – have an I Ching website.
Step 2 – have a nice publisher contact you via said website and ask you to write a book.
Think of all the reasons why you absolutely should not do anything of the kind for another 10, 20 or 30 years. (This takes some time.) Think about them all some more. Check with the publisher in the faint hope they might want something you’d object to writing anyway, and find they do in fact want a real translation, with words from the real book. Check with Yi, and get encouragement.
Realise that one reason to write a book now is so you can write a better one later.
Well, I started with the text I wrote for the WikiWing, since that summed up my ideas for each line and included my ‘working translation’ (which turned out to need a whole lot of reworking). Then I gathered together everything from a vast Word doc that contains all my ever-expanding notes on each hexagram and line, that rejoices in the original name of MYNOTES.doc. (It was created before you could have long file names in Windows.) I made sure I had the line pathway – the journey through fan yao, paired line of fan yao, paired line of original line – copied into each line as well as its zhi gua.
Then I added an ‘examples’ heading under each line and started gathering up example readings. Thank goodness I’ve been keeping my personal journal in a searchable format for some years now. (Another good reason to keep a searchable journal – you never know when someone might expect you to write a book.) Then I creatively cursed the inadequacies of Windows search, and installed Google desktop to search through ten years’ worth of clients’ readings. Finally, for lines where I was short of readings (I’d decided for some reason I wanted at least half a dozen different examples for each line), I visited the I Ching Community archives. (I would’ve been utterly lost without the hexagram search that Ewald created for us.)
I also spent some time searching for ‘threads started by’ the querents in these readings to find out how things turned out, and developed a new and profound appreciation for the people who are kind enough to post updates on the same thread!
I discovered the merits of coffee when working 12 hour days.
Reading through all the ramblings of ‘MYNOTES’ on each line and its pathways, I distilled these into a series of questions: how important is it to do this? do people feel that? why isn’t it a mistake, and why might you think it was? what does this kind of constancy look like, what kind of danger is there, how does the zhi gua show up…? – and so on. Then with my gathered example readings, I set out to find which of my ideas about the line actually fit, and which was just a nice idea in theory, and where I really needed to start over and work things out without preconceived notions. The aim, after all, was to write a commentary that would pretty reliably help people with readings – so it made sense to start by writing one that would have helped with the readings I know.
I renegotiated the deadline with the (very) nice publishers.
The next step was to distill all this down to a couple of paragraphs, agonising horribly over the choice of each word, trying to make them work with the explicit and implicit imagery of the text. Of course I want to be as specific and clear as possible, but not so specific that I exclude valid possibilities and get in the way of Yi talking to people. (Did I mention ‘gulp’?)
Somewhere along the way, I (re)discovered the difference between interpreting a reading and interpreting a line of text. It’s quite daunting.
As each hexagram was ‘finished’, in a provisional sort of way, I passed it to my husband to proof-read – which he did, and also pointed out all the unexplained assertions, logical discrepancies and unnecessary elaborations. I reminded myself repeatedly how generous he was being with his time (he really was!) and thought it all out again.
I uploaded each hexagram to the Change Circle’s private ‘jewelbox’ of downloads, where people looked at them and said kind and helpful things, and got me rewriting 29.6 in particular. Then, wonderfully, Bradford Hatcher volunteered to look through the work. He was indescribably helpful, and blessedly unintimidating for someone who’s forgotten more about this book than I’m ever likely to know. (I was already leaning heavily on his work for the ‘translation’ part, as well as LiSe, Harmen, Wilhelm, Lynn, Marshall, Rutt and God-bless-the-clickable-Wenlin for comparing word usage in Yijing and Shijing.)
Send finished work to nice publisher, who tells me it’s too long. Shorten it. Embarrassing how possible this is.
Still too long. Negotiate via nice, patient lady at publishers with design department to move the illustrations around as an alternative to cutting more words. Still need to cut some more or it won’t fit on the page – OK, getting good at this…
Go outdoors in daylight, and try to remember what they call that big, blue ceiling thing.
Start a file called ‘corrections.doc’.
Wait for the book to be published.
Erm… let me know what you think?