I couldn't agree more.
To that end, I occasionally use a thesaurus. And I still can't seem to shake the idea that it's a "crutch" that's frowned upon by good writers who don't "need" it. But I know that's not true. A thesaurus serves a specific purpose -- it spotlights a word that was already there, somewhere, floating around in my brain anyway. It's a tool, a device, and I think writers should use it boldly and proudly.
In fact, this past semester, I gave my students "permission" to use a thesaurus when they write. And half the class seemed grateful--as though perhaps they, too, had felt the same bit of ridiculous shame as I, when using one. Now sure, if a writer has to rely on a thesaurus for every other word, I do think it becomes a crutch. And, even more importantly, I think it squashes a writer's natural voice. Sometimes, a writer's initial instinct, his own personal wording, is the best wording of all. Because it is natural.
I do find myself using a thesaurus for those occasions where I'm repeating descriptions in a passage. When I need a new way to describe things like: "he smiled" or "she shrugged" or "she sipped her tea." If I'm constantly describing actions and using the same words, it becomes much too repetitive. That's where a thesaurus comes in handy.
Anyway, here, today, for anyone reading this entry, I hereby give you permission to use a thesaurus--proudly, and guilt-free. ;-)