I've been reading Clio Bluestocking's posts on writing with mingled envy and excitement about the process--envy (in a good way) because she's writing so much and excitement because the other day, for the first time in a long time, I worked on a piece of writing that was interesting and exciting to me.
Mostly what I've been doing is editing and writing stuff for others: editing my own work, responding to others' work, and doing service work that I'm committed to doing. What it reminded me of was this: you can, and I did, spend 16 hours on something (a report, say), and no one will notice it or say anything about it, unless it doesn't get done. You can spend 5 hours responding to something (and I did), and what you'll hear by return email is, "Fine. Now how about this other task?"
If it's what you signed up to do, you put in the hours, and you mark them on Google Calendar so you can see the real number of hours that it takes. You vow to remember this when someone contacts you about another piece of work that's a distraction, the kind of thing you deludedly think won't take much time but always does, and you vow not to commit to this kind of work until you're willing to put in the hours it really takes. I've already turned down 2 such tasks this week.
No wonder working on that piece of writing felt like such a guilty pleasure. Reading things I hadn't read before as well as some I had, making connections, putting it together and writing the words on paper, staying up well into the night when it was just me and the ideas and the cool night air coming in through the window--I had forgotten how that felt, writing about something that I cared about and that I wasn't responsible to anyone else for writing.
I'm going to hold that feeling in mind as I turn to grading and, yes, more duty-writing.