The One Side Project That Changed My Year / by Tze Hern Yeo

I'm going to publish a book in 2017.

This was the goal I set for myself earlier this February.

And 10 months later, I accomplished it.

Now that I'm on the other side, it feels surreal to hold a physical copy of the book in my hands.

I had created a book before but this time I wanted to take things up another level.

Here's how it all began.

My third year of school was spent entirely off-campus. 

The first half was spent on a semester exchange abroad in Sydney and the second half was spent interning at a production company.

During my internship I started to think about entering my final year at WKWSCI and what that would mean to me.

I looked back at all the experiences I've had and wondered what I could do next.

The idea for a book soon came along. 

I wanted to give back to my school and developed a concept for the book around it.

As my school celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, I thought it would be perfect to connect with current students and alumni across the 25 batches.

I was also inspired by the 100% Brisbane project while visiting Brisbane during my exchange.

This was how The Bench Press was born.

Coming up with the idea was the easy part.

Now for the real work.

The plan was to conduct 25 interviews with a representative from each of the school's 25 batches of students.

But that's not all.

Each interviewee would recommend a senior in the batch directly above them until I was led to the pioneer batch.

I started out by interviewing an incoming freshman of the school's 25th batch and worked my way up from there.

This was no easy feat as I soon learned.

On top of countless back and forth emails, I reached many dead ends along the way.

But one thing that impressed me was how supportive the entire alumni network was.

I was never met with a flat out "No" from anyone I reached out to. Instead, they would recommend other peers and alumni who could help with my project.

It was the generosity and kinship of alumni and current students that drove this project to completion.

But I still had my doubts.

I was highly sceptical about the feasibility of my side project almost every single step of the way.

This was in part due to the design of the interview process that heavily depended on the availability of alumni members.

Admittedly, it was hard to see the final product come together when things would move slow and at times I'd go without any progress for weeks on end.

Nonetheless I stuck with the project till the end. It took me 10 months but I got there.

I worked at it day by day.

It involved constantly making revisions to the book draft, arranging in-person meetings to photograph portraits of interviewees and coordinating with the printing press.

Through this I learned the ins and outs of what it takes to be an interviewer, editor and publisher.

You get what you put into your side project.

Whenever I met up with an interviewee to photograph their portrait, I was always asked the same question in one form or another:

Is this for a school project?

I had to explain that this was an entirely self-initiated project.

My response was often met with surprise and some confusion. This was how I realised that side projects are highly valuable but often overlooked.

I may not ever become a writer or publisher. But that's besides the point.

I took up this side project with the intent to challenge myself.

And isn't that what all side projects should aim to do?


Head over to @thebenchpressbook for more visuals.