When I was starting out, I wrote poetry and short stories. I never expected to earn money from writing—I bought the myth of the starving artist, empty hook, line, and sinker. I developed a sideline as a teacher, married a contractor so that I could have a house (even if it was a ruin in the ghetto), and settled in for the long haul. But as I gradually shifted to journalism—and got to know many professional writers in all genres—my expectations changed. I thought of writing not just as my calling, but as my career.
It may seem old-fashioned to consult a dictionary while writing, but I can’t imagine working without a reputable dictionary nearby. “Working with word books strengthens our imaginative muscles, and in turn, strengthens our own mental thesauruses, our ability to call up precise words,” I wrote in Sin and Syntax. But what happens to the dictionary in an era of e-publishing?