And being a writer takes more than simply placing words on a page or screen. That’s the beginning of the task, not its completion. Unpublished writing is not really writing in the strictest sense. The artform known as ‘literature’ is a process, a process in which the writer is only one stage. Other stages in this process include agents, editors, publishers, designers, printers, distributors and (most crucially of all) readers. An agent who has never sold a book would never describe himself as an ‘agent’; nor would an editor who had never edited anything describe himself as an ‘editor’; this reticence applies to all stages in the process. Can you imagine a reader who has never been near a book in her life sincerely describing herself as a ‘reader’? No, you can’t.
Thus a writer who hasn’t published anything should never describe himself as a writer. If he has never been read in the approved fashion (plucked from a shelf by an unknown reader in a shop) he is still a hackling. He is still on probation.
Hacklings only become genuine writers when they acquire a success rating of one Beerbohm or more.