You probably think about a writer’s shelf as containing books that she loves; novels, plays, poetry, collections of essays that have inspired her and made here want to write. While that is true, the writer’s shelf contains some other basic, elemental tomes that are invaluable to the writer. Indeed, the writer without the right resources cannot write right (wow, that sentence is punny, not to mention incredibly bad, but that will make you remember it!). The writer’s shelf has some things sitting on it that constitute the writer’s tools of the trade. Yes, the journal, the pen, the keyboard, the mouse, the monitor are tools of the trade…and some writers would also include the coffee mug or the wine goblet as tools of the trade as well…but there are certain must-have publications that the writer needs to have on his shelf. These publications are so important to the writer’s shelf, in fact, that they are even more important than Shakespeare’s works and the Bible! Don’t get me wrong–I personally think that the works of Shakespeare and the Bible are two of the vital tools of the writer’s trade, too, and I have them on my writer’s shelf. Yet there are a few that even transcend those twin pillars of Solomon’s Temple of Writing.
With a nod to modern times, the writer’s shelf can be virtual as well as wooden. One thing that I think is vitally necessary to have on your writer’s shelf is the free online dictionary which also includes the free online thesaurus an the free online book library. It probably goes without saying that the writer’s shelf needs the dictionary and thesaurus, but that online library is a magnificent resource. What’s more the free online dictionary will very often include as part of its definition of a word that word found in quotes from classic literature. Those quotes can then be seen “in context” so that you see pages of the work, which usually leads to the entire work from the free online library. Woo hoo! Microsoft’s Encarta is certainly another valuable virtual tool that you can have on your virtual writer’s shelf. Yahoo’s World Fact Book can prove wonderful for the writer’s shelf, too.
But there are printed things for you to have on your writer’s shelf, too. One of these things is the Oxford Dictionary of American Use and Style. This is a book for showing you how our language is being used at the present time, and it shows actual publishe examples of accepted usages of words as well as erroneous usages in publications, too. Next you’ll want a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. This is a tool for “dropping a plumbline” back into classic literature or history so as to connect your writing with that of the great masters. It also can stimulate your mind to a new angle of plot or research. Benet’s Reader’s Encylopedia is a geekfest tome. It is a fount of information about authors, works, characters, places, settings, and the roots of words. And then you’ll want an up to date almanac and a college-level grammar book (you know…just in case).
These are what should be found on the writer’s shelf. A writer with a writer’s shelf lined with these resources is on her way to literary success.