When I think back to the good books I've read recently, most of them are at least thirty years old, if not a hundred. Recently, I commented on an online forum implying that it was a shame people no longer write to last. Another author answered saying that they would far prefer to sell than to last - that they would be horrified to hear their book called "good literature".
Why? What is so terrible about that? What is so wrong with doing one's absolute best? With writing to last?
Perhaps I becoming a snob. I sincerely hope not, but I admit that it's more than possible. However, I don't understand the mania for selling. I know it's a wonderful thing to sell well, and I, too, would love to have my works appreciated. Yet for me, selling is not the big deal. Obviously, to get a publishing contract, one needs to have a basic appeal that will guarantee a few sales. But I naturally want to read something hooking or exciting anyway, if it's modern; hence, I write this way too.
For me, however, the main goal has long been to write well. I think as authors we've got to have another reason for writing, rather than money. Very few authors are going to get famous and become millionaires. Very few will sell well. We have to create the art for another reason, a deeper reason, a greater reward than money.
I write because it's a form of prayer for me. I write because it helps me understand the world and commune with my God. I write because I believe there's a purpose in all life, and there must be a reason for this yearning for literature within me.
For me, the greatest honor would be to know that my books live on in people's minds as something that impacted them and changed the way they think. Possibly the greatest power of books is the spiritual - their ability to shape souls and minds. The greatest power of books, I don't think, is to entertain.
So here's a thought for today - why not write to last? Why settle for anything less than your best?