between vanity and avarice

In studying your own pages I find that the great majority of the names which are quoted as those of important young writers are wholly unfamiliar to me. That will demonstrate how ignorant I am of recent literary movements. I don’t think this is a particularly unhealthy condition for an elderly writer. There are flibbertigibbets who in middle-age attend international cultural congresses and busy themselves with the latest fashions. Few of those are notable for their literary production. A writer should have found his métier before he is 50. After that he reads only for pleasure; not for curiosity about what others are doing. Please do not interpret this as scorn or jealousy of the young. It is simply that they are tastes and achievements are irrelevant to his work.

[The middle-aged writer] can contribute either to popular papers or to those of small circulation. In the first case he will find his work mutilated by sub-editors and scrawled over with inappropriate titles, but he will be paid 20 times as much as by a more humane employer. The choice is between vanity and avarice.

— Evelyn Waugh, letter to David Wright, 21 April 1960