Few years back I was working on an Oscar Martello novel based on the success of some of the short stories. Those stories had been anthologized here and there alongside some smart folks, and I figured it was a good idea to work on something a little more ambitious, to develop something a little bigger.
I figured I had a good idea, because I'm a big fan of conflict and tension to drive a story. Martello would find himself responsible for a small child, after the child's parents go missing. Something something details. So he'd have to do some investigative tough-guy work, while trying to arrange for day care. Tension on various layers, maybe some humor mixed in with all the killings. So I started working on it.
"What are you working on?"
"An Oscar Martello novel?"
"Nice. Good luck."
If only I could have left it at that I'd certainly have a novel series sold and a string of movies with that sweet, sweet Hollywood money.
Instead, I'm burdened with friends. This has always been the thing that's held me back, I think.
I'm talking to someone about the idea, and this friend says, "Oh, like Kindergarten Cop, huh?"
"Like who the what now?"
"That movie where tough guy Arnold has to take care of the kid. That was hilarious."
"No, not like Kindergarten Cop," I said.
"Maybe you could get Arnold to play Oscar in the movie."
"Uh, maybe you could, maybe your face could eat a big bag of shut up."
"Whatever. Good luck with it."
"Oh, yeah. Well, good luck with your big stupid face of stupidnesses," I said.
Honestly, people ruin everything.
So, yeah, that book ain't getting written. Neither will other stories I've told people about because they sometimes say, "Oh, sounds good. Have you thought about _____?"
If you send a few pages you're working on to someone, the last thing you want is to have your work hit a wall. You don't want people to slow your roll. You've got momentum. An idea. You're writing and, sure, you want to share it, so you do. And that's when it all goes testicles up. Because people ruin everything. They have ideas. They have THOUGHTS they want to share. This is how they'd write your story.
Look, you and I don't need people. We've got this writing thing down. When it's done, then we show people. But we have to get the thing done first, then the critical stuff, the editing and the pulling apart and putting back together stuff can happen. Anything too critical during the process is a killer. You're introducing a foreign object -- some other brain -- into the reaction.
David Foster Wallace was giving an interview about Infinite Jest and the interviewer asking him what he was working on after that.
DFW: "I'd rather not talk about it, thank you."
That's it. He went full-on Bartleby, the Scrivener on the dude. Hell, I didn't know you could do that.
There you go. What are you working on? A big stack of none of your business, pal. Now buy me another drink.