Today I am honoured to welcome on my blog, Kate Emmerson. I had the privilege to spend some precious bumtime with Kate last year in Johannesburg. She inspired me to try #LocationFree Living too, which I had just set out to do before COVID-19 put a stop to my travels. Who knows what the future might hold?
I didn't really need to ask Kate questions, because she is so enthusiastic about her life and lifestyle and what she is doing, that you can talk to her for hours. I hope she will inspire you as much as she inspires me.
Tell us about your writing career
It was never my dream to be a professional writer to be honest, even though I have always been a writer of sorts. I started journaling at the tender age of 13 and used to take great joy in carefully covering my diary every year. I would choose something cool and funky to reflect where I was at, my age etc., and I was always super proud of my journal. I also wrote with an ink pen. While it may have started as a way to simply record the latest top 20 music, comment about school or friends etc., it eventually started becoming my confidant. I’d pour my heart (and eyes) out on the pages as to which boy waved hello and what I was going to wear to the next party. It also became a way for me to “process” life and the ups and downs that inevitably come with being a teenager. All the love and heartache of break-ups, my battle with bulimia and life in general. In my 20’s it became my go-to way of inner healing. I pretty much still write every day – in good old-fashioned long form.
When I was 26, I did a massive ceremony to burn my journals from 13 to 23 years old. This was not some random act of craziness- it was accompanied by a huge bonfire, a close-out process, lots of candles and red wine. I had started becoming interested in the idea of clutter clearing and cleansing, and realised I was stuck in the past of those thousands and thousands of handwritten pages.
Only in my early 30’s when I became a professional life coach, did I take writing seriously as part of my “work.” Being one of South Africa’s first life coaches back in 2003, I was often invited to offer my “expert” opinion for magazines, and started contributing to a lot of articles for the media. But my real writing began when I started creating online courses in 2004/5. It was a way of coaching my clients around the world and offering them coaching support at a fraction of the price of face-to-face sessions. My first course was titled “How to get your groove back.” That escalated into writing 13 online courses over the next few years. The second one I wrote, titled “Springclean your life,” taught folk the how and why of decluttering your entire life. The right topic at the right time, saw that popular course being offered a publishing deal with Metz Press back in 2013. My first book was a best seller in South Africa, and since then I have thought of myself as an author.
It is a total privilege to have my ideas, thoughts and processes available in books. It has been one of the great loves of my life – and hearing from a reader whose life has changed because of something I wrote, brings me deep joy.
What is the name of your book, and what inspired it?
My 5th book is titled “10 Lessons for Living #LocationFree.” After becoming an international clutter expert, speaker and author travelling the world for at least 6 months of the year, I was ready to think about living somewhere other than South Africa. My motto in life is #LIVELIGHTLIVELARGE, and I wanted to find a way to lean into that motto more and more. So an inspired flash made me realise I didn’t want to create another home in Johannesburg. Even though I was in a committed relationship, with a partner who couldn’t travel and work like me, I went “Location Free” for one year.
That one year became five, and now here I am sharing about the last 5 years in this book!
How long did it take you before you began writing this book?
I thought I was going to blog and write about my #LocationFree life a LOT when I first embarked on it. But the truth is, I haven’t written as much about it as initially anticipated – I was too busy LIVING it. Revelling in it – all the travel, the adventures, the jet lag, the living of life by simply showing up and trusting the magic. It was only at the end of the 4th year, December 2019 when I was stationed in Malaga, Spain for a warm winter, that I finally decided it was time to put some thoughts down to make sense of it all.
How do you like to collect and organise your ideas?
I have always followed a similar process with all my non-fiction books. Back when I wrote my first book, my author friend Nick Williams talked me through this concept, and I find it the quickest way to get it all out in one go! I start with a book proposal type of idea, like a big picture business plan. I create the full outline and do it in one sitting. It starts with setting specific time aside, then I brainstorm 20 titles and subtitles; next the “blurb” for the back of the book; next who is the ideal reader; then the takeaways and lastly the structure of the chapters and their outcomes.
Done! This book was embedded in my very cells through having LIVED it for four years when I started it. I sat down at the first writing session with a new community of writers – and thrashed out the entire structure for the book. Upon arriving in Malaga, I had put up a couple of posts on the local Facebook Community and Digital Nomad groups about how I run professional writing mentorships and host communities. I shared that I was about to write my next book and who fancied meeting up for what I call “bumtime” sessions to work on any writing projects. In a few days I had 28 people on my WhatsApp group. That Saturday a group of us gathered, and in 2 hours I had the bones of the outline for the book. Once that was in place, filling in the chapters was easy for me.
How long did it take you to write this book? I am unstoppable when I am focussed. I don’t like to muck about, to be honest. I knew I wanted to complete the first draft of the book while in Malaga for winter. I also wanted to enjoy the city, explore, learn Spanish, entice friends and my mum to visit and to do some volunteer work. SO I had a full life in an exciting new city, alongside this deadline. I was simultaneously in the last stages of publishing my 4th book with my business parter and going through a tough breakup with my life partner. So, to keep my head on my shoulders, I set aside 2 to 3 writing sessions weekly, and completed the first draft of MY part of the book, in just 11 focussed writing sessions!
When I set about doing the book outline in that first session, one of the questions I had, was around what “other voices” to include. My other books have client stories included to help inspire the reader to also do the work and process I offer up. But for this book about living #LocationFree – I did not have any specific clients to call upon... So I struck on the idea to interview others - of a similar age to me – to be included in the book. I was 47 when I started living around the world as a nomad, so everyone else in the book ranges from 40 to 60 years old. So I set about finding and interviewing others to get their perspectives and ideas—and those 16 interviews were finally concluded by early May 2020. I then left the book totally untouched until November 2020. I let it simmer and stew - otherwise simply known as ignoring it. I committed to the month of November 2020 to make it happen. My business partner and I hosted a focussed writing group called BLAST YOUR BOOK for 30 days in November. I put my money where my mouth was, and publically committed to completing the book in 30 days. A big goal makes me pay attention. I pulled out ALL the stops and went from that rough second draft version in May, to a professionally published book in just 27 days. It was a major thing to pull off—including commissioning the fun illustration for the cover.
What's next for you as a writer?
Right now I am focussed on giving this book the best send off into the world. I needed to complete and publish this book as I come up to the 5th anniversary of living Location Free. It’s my way of marking and honouring the last five years. I want to revel in it and enjoy doing interviews and all the fun stuff that goes around the launch of a new book. The launch of book #4 was scuppered thanks to covid, so I’m really giving myself permission to enjoy number 5!
Of course in 2021 we will be running more online writing mentorships and bootcamps (https://www.thewritingroom.co.za/mastermind.html#/) and getting back on track with our fabulous international writing retreats. I am going to be focussing on doing more blogging and writing articles for different international publications. When my next idea for a book hits me in the middle of the night, then I guess I’ll kick into focussed gear again and get cracking. Maybe my next book will be a novel for a change – just for fun – who knows.
I am also taking time out with my new love - the MAKING of my own books. My heart fell upon this hobby called BookArt when on retreat on Iona, and I have become besotted with the possibilities of paper, ink, waxed linen thread, a bookbinders's needle, an awl and the art of making books = #happyheart.
Kate Emmerson challenged her own motto to #LiveLightLiveLarge. Running a global business as a keynote speaker, author, life coach and South Africa’s clutter expert, she took a drastic leap of faith. In a flash of inspiration, at the age of 47, she packed up her apartment and downsized to three boxes. This courageous move meant finding her cat, Stripey, a new home and navigating a committed relationship as she embarked on living #LocationFree for one year. That year became five! This is her honest account of #TheMinimalist Manifesto. You might find Kate writing in a café, walking deserted beaches at sunrise, hosting retreats in exotic locations or salsa dancing… When asked, “So, what do you do?” her answer is a cheeky, “I do life!”
or amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P7FQ94G ebook
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