Written Unconformities

In geology, an unconformity is the name given to two sequences of sedimentary rocks (or strata) which directly adjoin one another but which, logically, shouldn't. The most common examples are where the lower layer of rock is actually younger than the layer on top, or where the two layers have been laid down millennia apart, with a time period apparently missing in between.

There are many natural explanations for unconformities – from seismic activity to erosion – so you find these seemingly impossible configurations surprisingly often. This confused early geologists quite a lot. Anyway, we'll revisit unconformities in a minute.

Yesterday, I wrote an article about my latest foray into the world of productivity frameworks. Except, when I say that I wrote it "yesterday", that's really a lie.

See, I actually wrote that article in late September of last year. According to the drafting records I have, I began writing it on the 21st of September, and last edited it (before yesterday) about three days later. And in those three days, I fully wrote the article that I published, well, yesterday.

And I do mean "fully wrote". If you compare the drafted bullet points as they are in WorkFlowy to the article I finally published on this site, you will find some subtle changes, but the core structure, phrasing, and overall gist will be identical. Indeed, there are entire paragraphs that haven't changed at all.

So why did it take so long to actually hit publish?

Well, in part, it's because I was waiting on another article that is, in fact, still sat in my drafts' folder. That second article covers a few ideas which are tangentially related to my method of task prioritisation, ideas which I wrote about – checks notes – almost two weeks before the second draft was started. I guess, in my mind, that earlier post was already "done" and published, or at least would be before it mattered.

But when the second draft was nearing completion, this hadn't happened. I realised that the references and call-backs I'd added in wouldn't work, so put it on hold. If I hadn't done so, the article would have linked to pages that didn't exist at the time – and still don't!

It would have created an unconformity within the stratigraphy of this website. (Ah, full circle 😉) From the perspective of a reader, the article would contain references to things not-yet written. Of course, they had been written. They'd just subsequently been lost to the sands of time, much like those missing sediments in the exposed cliff-face.

When I look back at how much I did – or didn't – write in 2023, one thing that stands out is how many articles never made it out of my drafts. And when I look ahead to what I want to write in 2024, I find myself often wanting to reference posts that effectively never happened.

Previously, I've occasionally "backfilled" articles, setting them live with published dates months or even years in the past, to ensure that newer articles can reference them in a logical, meaningful way; to prevent an unconformity.

But I'm in two minds as to whether that's a good idea or not. On the one hand, I like seeing my thoughts evolve over time. Placing a post into the temporal context it was intended for helps preserve that evolution, and that documented progress is a big part of why I have this blog in the first place. And yet, I can't help but feel that fiddling the published date is somehow cheating.

Plus, it makes it very hard to talk about the article in question. I really like my productivity system. I want to share yesterday's post with other people. But it looks and feels odd to say "hey, here's something I just finished and want to talk about" when it claims to have been published months ago.

In this case, I just rewrote the problematic paragraphs. I removed the references to the older-but-future draft and chose to post the article as though it was all brand new. I updated a few dates and details. I erased the unconformity before it occurred.

But it did get me thinking. (Clearly.) I have a metaphorical drawer full of nearly-complete drafts, and things get added to that pile faster than they are removed. The number of potential unconformities is growing.

I don't have a solution to that right now, but I often find writing about an issue helps clarify where potential answers are and aren't. Hopefully that happens here.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with one last, subtle revelation: throughout the above paragraphs, I've been referencing the article that I published yesterday. But that, too, is a lie. When I wrote these words, the article wasn't even published yet. It should go up in about an hour or two. I'll delay this post until tomorrow – my tomorrow because I don't like my site to appear too noisy, and because I like both of these posts and want to let them breathe a little. And yet in doing so, I'm creating yet another hidden unconformity, with more time slipping through the cracks.

Explore Other Articles


The Power of Three-mes

A look into my most recent productivity framework: every month set three, roughly prioritised focus areas. It's not novel, but it's been a slow-burn journey over the past twelve months or so and seems to be working well.


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  • <p>The trouble with drafting blog posts and then mentally filing them under "done", without ever actually hitting publish.</p>
  • Murray Adcock.
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