First, I'm amazed at the volume of material by writers like Hitchens. He writes political and literary commentary and has published several books on different subjects. His friends have said that sometimes he'll excuse himself after dinner, write a column, and return before the subject of conversation has changed. He's constantly writing.
I first encountered his work at Slate.com, where he writes a column at least once a week. The thought that resonated with me most, however, was his attitude towards writing in the face of personal tragedy. His mother committed suicide in an Athens hotel, and while he was there, he churned out an insightful expose on the state of Greek politics. Here's the quote that struck me:
"'Everyone said, 'Christopher, how could you?' I said 'How could I not?' It was therapeutic to write. No -- consoling. Useful.'"
I don't write because it's therapeutic. I write because it's something useful, and doing something useful is therapeutic in the sense of regaining confidence and purpose after something negative has happened. It's also, I hope, contributing something positive and practical to someone in the world.
Here's the other quote from that piece that hit me. It's Hitchens talking about the turmoil in Athens while he was there:
"You can learn a lot in a short time when there are tanks in the streets."
True in general, too.