I am forced to acknowledge that I’ve never been brilliant about acknowledgements. I don’t much like admin (and everything that isn’t actually writing counts as admin.) I’m generally poor at detail and once a book is finished I want to forget all about it and get on with something new. For most of my books, I have missed 'acknowledgements' out altogether.
I have a pathological hatred of speech making. Speeches were banned at my wedding and, at any social event where they are de rigueur, I will generally slope off to the loos to hide until they are over. A fact referenced by my brother-in-law in his own wedding speech as I blushingly emerged from the loos a little early, just in time to hear him mentioning my predictable flight to the loos. Oh, the hilarity.
This is relevant because, for me, acknowledgements can feel a bit like an Oscar speech, though as I’ve never watched one, I can’t be entirely sure. Where I remember to include acks, I, therefore, keep them brief to the point of near invisibility.
I don’t like to think that I may also be ungrateful, deluded and inclined to forget the contribution others make. It is not impossible that I discount the significance of the support, patience, insights and writerly assistance of others, and want to take all the credit or blame myself. Mea culpa.
I have been thinking about this because, in the last few days, both a former writing student and a friend whose work I’d read and commented on many years ago, were generous enough to acknowledge my contribution to the development of their published novels. I’m not going to lie, it was lovely and gave me a warm, glowy feeling inside. Their generosity is remarkable because what I contributed was criticism, suggestions on how the work could be improved that would have been delivered with customary bluntness and unvarnished honesty. Very often the last thing writers want is honesty: personally, I just want praise and flattery.
Both writers are good now, and were already good when I read their work long ago. Both will, I think, keep getting better because they can accept criticism, value it for the gift it is, and indeed actively pursue it. The list of people they thank is, in each case, lengthy and comprehensive. Their openness and self-awareness is salutary. As someone who has, over the years, found taking criticism tricky, I will hereby acknowledge the lessons I have learned from them: solicit criticism, make use of it and acknowledge it generously. So thank you fellow writers for your lesson in graciousness and the importance of acknowledgements.