How much is an idea worth? How much are the words that I write worth? How much is an hour of my time worth? As with many people, I greatly overestimate the value of my time and ability. It’s one reason why I can’t quit my job—I believe the pay is reasonable compensation for my time and ability—and one reason why I don’t like picking up extra private tutoring or editing jobs—the prices I feel I should charge I also feel are not moral. It’s also one reason I don’t blog as often as I should—the compensation is purely social and I’m not a social person. But the fact is that I waste a lot of time doing things with no inherent value. I should at least be reading books in my free time, but I’m probably the least well-read writer I know.
Anyway, these were the questions I found myself debating the other week. A couple weeks ago, my laptop crashed. I came home from a long day at work and turned on my computer. It was working just the same as any other day, but it wasn’t connecting to my home Wi-Fi, which it was in the habit of doing occasionally when I used it outside of the apartment. So I restarted it. It shut down fine, but where I should’ve got the ASUS loading screen, I got the blue screen of death. I didn’t think too much of it at the time because it would crap out every once in a while, but about 36 hours later, it still wouldn’t work despite trying everything I could think of.
The thing about my laptop, it was a shitty, bottom-of-the-line tablet PC so it had a tiny hard drive. Considering space for the operating system and necessary programs such as Office, there was almost no space left. Of course, there was a slot for a micro SD card, which is where I put most of my files. But my most important files, the files that I accessed most often I left on my hard drive. Of course, those files were my next two novels, the first of which I had maybe 30-40 pages of notes, a detailed outline about 60-70 percent finished, and certain important passages written out in detail. The second was mostly preliminary research, but there was a great deal of it.
The day after it crashed, I luckily had a few hours of free time, so I took the bike out, first to Yongsan only to find the ASUS repair center had closed down, then to various spots on Naver where they said there were ASUS repair shops near my house—Shindaebang, Noryangjin, Heukseok—but they were all dead ends. In the end, I went to this data recovery center near Hakdong, and they said they’d call in two days with a quote. “We’re among the top 3 data recovery centers in Korea,” the guy assured me.
A week passed and nothing. I couldn’t get through so I took my bike out there and the guy told me that they had to send it to another center in Busan and that he’d call me the next day. Two days later, he told me that it’d cost probably 700 bucks to fix. I told him that the price was too steep so he said he could try a different place for about 500. I said I’d think about it.
500 bucks for two Word files? 500 bucks for maybe three months of work (the last time I backed up the files)? 500 bucks for words I wrote that I might never write again?
In the end, I decided against it. When I consider that I actually lost money on my first book and that even when not factoring in the money I threw away in printing the book independently, my profits versus the time spent in writing and editing the book equals out to pennies per hour. I also didn’t lose the ideas for the novels, just parts of the ideas and many words that I may never get back, but for the more developed of the two books, the fact is that it was not even a complete first draft and after editing, the final manuscript may not even include those words or ideas at all.
Hopefully, one day, my words and ideas will be worth more than this. Instead, I’ll just have to take this as a lesson that I paid for not in terms of money but in terms of months of work. Kids, remember to back up your files.