Some words are specific to a certain field of endeavor and some are flexible, used to describe something in a variety of arenas. One such word is our vocabulary word of the day: bifurcation.
Simply, it involves splitting something into two distinct parts. The prefix “bi” indicates two, so it is simple to remember the number of parts involved.
It is used in general science, medicine, law, mathematics and now, publishing.
Professional writers experience bifurcation when they work on one project for enjoyment and one project to make money. They might write poetry for their personal illumination and an article on road repair progress for the local news service, to pay their bills.
Many writers have diverse lives, working a day job and writing before and after wearing their literary “hat.” They experience bifurcation every day of their lives.
The successful writing of books however, requires an author focus on one thing, the successful publication of a book. This effort is not split into parts, writing and platform development, but one coordinated effort aimed at a goal.
Much as authors want to think writing and platform are separate and distinct, they are really part of the same effort. Your platform influences writing, your writing influences your platform.
Viewing them as separate and distinct places the Christian author in the conflicted position of judging one to be sacred and the other secular, the same type of conflict a pastor experiences between worship service preparation and church budget management.
The writer and pastor quickly learn both aspects of their work are important.
Authors can even experience a dangerous form of bifurcation when they consider writing as important, but platform as a necessary evil. One deserves your undivided focus and the other is done while holding your nose.
This never works out well.
Many times new authors will ask me for a checklist of what they should do to get started in professional writing. I’ll usually suggest something as simple as “Go to a writer’s conference.”
What they don’t realize is this recommendation is actually saying, “Go get a drink from a fire hose.”
If someone persists desiring an ordered checklist, I will usually make the comparison of an aspiring professional writer starting a small business, which is exactly what you are doing.
Anyone starting a small business knows even though you would prefer to be back in the kitchen making your special recipe cupcakes, you will need to become very familiar with all the issues of business law, government forms, taxation, health department requirements, commercial real estate, employment statutes, accounting, refrigeration units, roof repair, inventory management, and about forty other areas you might not have even thought about yet.
As a small business owner, what’s the first thing you do, other than pray for wisdom every day?
In the course of a day, you spend at least some time on just about everything.
Self-employed professional writing is like this. At some point you will not only need to do actual writing, but also continually learn more about professional writing standards, develop a platform, do some accounting, project management, social media trend study, computer management and roof repair, especially if you live and work in an older home! (Even if you have a full time job writing or editing, the addition of a freelance element requires you learn all about the above list for the part of your life not covered by an employer.)
The writer’s life could never be described as simple, easy, controlled, and predictable.
Certainly there is no bifurcation with the successful professional writer. No sacred versus secular. It is all one singular effort. The quicker the author accepts this reality, the sooner they can begin to realize their calling.
Damon J. Gray
Good morning, Dan, and thank you for the thought-inducing blog posting.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that writing, at least from the standpoint of being a successful (however you define that) traditionally-published author is similar to being a professional athlete. While I really just wanna play the game, to do so, and do well, I must spend time in the gym, or the weight room. I have to spend countless hours in the batting cage, or swimming laps at the pool. All of it grievously dull, and at times painful. But it is a “must-do,” just like building a platform is for an author.
And, having done so, still the overwhelming majority of us will remain at AAA, in the minor leagues. Very, very few actually bubble to the top and play in the big game at Fenway Park.
Good point Damon, i like reading your insight. God bless u.
It’s true, there is only integration, not bifurcation. I have owned and run several businesses. Although each was different, all required some measure of marketing, accounting, and knowledge of tax law and other laws. It helped that I had an undergraduate background in marketing and a law degree. But nothing taught me more than doing it. A current work day consists of marketing through paid ads and Facebook and Twitter posts as well as maintaining the website which I design and maintain but had a professional build. I also must maintain a close watch on law and accounting including recording expenses and income, planning future projects, and allocating income to maintenance, development, marketing and other areas. I am no accountant and hate the intangible numbers (and it’s been decades since I practiced law), but I have had tools (the internet, Quickbooks and TurboTax) and professionals (CPAs, attorneys) to advise me. Finally, I must actually participate in the business which brings in the income. For a writer, that’s writing. For my past and present businesses, that was audio-visual production, law, computer consulting, and a vacation rental (Wren Eagle Retreat) and other rentals and real estate rehabs and sales. Whatever is produced or worked at to bring in income cannot continue without the marketing and accounting and legal work (including contracts). So, it’s all integrated and may be thought of as a 3-legged stool of marketing, accounting, and law which supports the income-producing activity.
I love this because as Christians, all that we do–the writing, the marketing, the paperwork, the business plan, etc.–is all for our good and for the glory of God. There’s no splitting into “holier” tasks and “unholy” tasks, as we sometimes want to think. Everything we do, from the mundane to the more enjoyable, is done for our Heavenly Father. When we can wrap our minds around that fact, we can find ourselves rejoicing in the marketing and rejoicing in the writing, rejoicing as we pay our taxes and rejoicing when we see the fruits of our writing labor come out in book form.
John de Sousa
Preach it girl!
I was thinking the same thing, Sarah!
This post really brought forward the truth – that as believers there should be no divide between spiritual and secular. It’s all for His glory!
Which makes me a little more upbeat about my newly set goal to improve my platform. 🙂
I echo an AMEN to all of the above.
But I particularly want to thank you for the photo at the top. As an old railroad brat, I particularly like photos relating to that field. This “y” junction is perfect!
And the photo is an integral part of the post – another example where this is perfect coordination.
It’s kind of strange to me. if authors write to communicate, the surest way to enjoy the fruits of that communication is through platform.
It answers the question “Is my writing making a difference?” with an immediacy that would have been impossible to imagine in, say, the 1980s. I know that I am reaching people; I know that it’s important that I show up and keep writing (and, coincidentally, try not to die too soon).
To me, bifurcation doesn’t make sense. The writing informs the platform and the platform hones the effectiveness and focus of the writing, in an optimizing feedback loop that’s not only useful…
Dan, it is so true that every job has it’s fun and not-so-fun parts, but you have to do them all. I used to do experiments in vacuum, where most of the air molecules were pumped out (simulates the environment in space). We used vacuum pumps that ran continuously…except when we had to do maintenance. One of my favorite sayings was ”If you want to do the research, you have to change the pump oil.” Not fun, but necessary. There are lots of pump-oil parts to being a professional writer.
I had another favorite saying: “With this much manure, there has to be a pony somewhere.” As I get better at them, the non-writing parts of the author’s life become more like pony and less like manure. If I decide to look on them as a challenge rather than a burden, I find the pony even faster.
Good post Dan, i enjoy reading your posts. I am learning from you. God bless.
John de Sousa
I work for a car insurance company. If there is a horrible accident with severe injuries, but it’s not clear who’s at fault, we may seek a bifurcated trial. This way we can first have a trial to determine who’s to blame. If our guy is found in the wrong, we can settle for a reasonable amount. Otherwise, a jury may award a massive figure that exceeds the policy amount, and bankrupt our insured. But bifurcation is not the right choice for every claim, in fact it’s the rare choice. (Too expensive and slow legally.) And as you so adeptly pointed out, it’s not the right choice for a writer’s perspective. Thanks for the well timed counsel, as I have just started out (kicking and screaming) to build a platform.
Martha Whiteman Rogers
Thank you, Dan. I’ve archived this in my folders so I can read it on occasion and remind myself of this fact. Even after publication, I still fight with and have trouble with all the other aspects of our writing as a business.
Thank you for this valuable insight, Dan.
Writer, pastor, Indian Chief . . . we all need to be alert to bifurcation since everything we do needs to be driven by the same set of precepts.
In a sentence. Some of my best friends are bifurcated.
His brachialis bifurcated by the belligerent buff, the bushman’s bon mots (so bright before!) took on a bleak bloody-minded bias, and he canceled his monthly donation to the World Wildlife Federation.
I do have fun, Rebekah! 🙂
“Much as authors want to think writing and platform are separate and distinct, they are really part of the same effort. Your platform influences writing, your writing influences your platform.”
This is so true. I think my blog and the novel I’m revising are working together to stretch me as a writer. I find more descriptions slipping into the blog and more of my critical eye searching the novel. Both are teaching me to change hats when necessary and to be more disciplined.
Thanks, Dan. God bless you!
Dan! So much relief here I could cry! I’m pretty new at this and often wonder if I’ve got it all wrong. I’m normal! (Well, that might be up for debate, but as far as time management goes for a writer, maybe there’s hope here.)
I worked for a small business owner for seven years and saw firsthand how he divided time for different tasks. I used to marvel that some days “all” he’d do was talk on the phone. It all clicks.
And the bow tying everything together – no divide between sacred/secular. Thank you for gifting me with this post, Dan.
Dan, this is beautiful. Smart. Wunderbar. This week I’ve been hitting the business wall head-on…not hurting myself, but definitely getting a brainful. It’s crazy busy but it’s been energizing to see things come together in ways I hadn’t expected.
Platform/marketing/relationships … Yes, lots of work. Don’t see how they can be separated, as we need one to make the other two roll.
Thanks for sharing and teaching.