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.

Peter Hibbard

The Bund Shanghai_China Faces West


Long-time Shanghai resident Peter Hibbard is president of the Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai and the author of The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West (2007).


Why I write
My writing is the outcome of years of intensive archival research that I don’t want to see resting in filing cabinets forever. If I hadn’t got so personally involved with the research (on old Shanghai and tourism history in China) in the 1980s, I certainly wouldn’t be writing now.


Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
No, not every day. I will write if I have time on top of other commitments or if there are deadlines – mine, or others. I generally work in half-day stints.


Worst source of distraction?
Working from home and not concentrating on the job in hand.


Best source of inspiration?
A sunny day and peace of mind.


How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
Frequently, sometimes I find it difficult to put one decent sentence together. This usually occurs when I have far too much information to synthesize and the exercise of sorting becomes a tiresome burden.


Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?


Favorite Chinese writer?
Han Suyin.


Best book about China?
Robert Bickers’ Empire Made Me.


Favorite book?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


Favorite writer?
Enid Blyton – used to enjoy reading much more when I was young.


The book you should have read but haven’t?
Many – but they largely come in the category of academic treatises on Chinese culture that I can’t afford or find.


You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Could have done better if I knew what I knew now, but content to know that my early writing (largely in magazines and periodicals) got things into print that no one had done before.


Does writing change anything?
Hopefully my writing raises awareness of the Shanghai environment in particular. Personally it gives a great sense of satisfaction quite different from that found in my other activities.


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