In 1946, George Orwell articulated the reasons why he put pen to paper in an essay entitled Why I Write.
In this Web series, authors talk about their literary habits and reading preferences,
and examine Orwell's question that lies at the heart of being an author—why they write.

Isabel Hilton

The Search for the Panchen Lama


Isabel Hilton OBE is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster based in London. She has worked as Latin American affairs editor at The Sunday Times and The Independent, and as a columnist for the Guardian. She is a past editor-in-chief of the digital commons openDemocracy and the current editor of Chinadialogue, a bilingual (English and Mandarin) website on global environmental issues, with a special focus on China.


She is author of The Search for the Panchen Lama (2001).


Why I write
Because in a complicated way, I enjoy it and because I don’t really know what I think until I sit down and write it. It is partly a dialogue with myself and partly how I order my sense of the world, people and events.


Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Yes, but it depends on what else is going on. If I am on a book or a big project, I will write for up to six hours and revise for the rest. But a lot of the time I am doing other things – researching, running chinadialogue, giving talks and other distractions.


Worst source of distraction?
Earning a living.


Best source of inspiration?
The steady stream of strange and remarkable events that happen in the world.


How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
About eight times a day.


Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
Too many to mention. It also depends on what I happen to be chasing. You discover new writers all the time.


Favorite Chinese writer?
Lao She.


Best book about China?
Hong Lou Meng, though I am sure that’s not what you meant.


Favorite book?
No fixed favorite. How could there be while life and books still continue? But I recently enjoyed Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, a recent Booker winner.


Favorite writer?
See above.


The book you should have read but haven’t?
Anything by Alexander Herzen.


You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
That’s not bad. I wonder who wrote it?


How did you get started writing?
At school, for the love of it.


Does writing change anything?
Of course.


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Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by JFK Miller No Comments