November 6, 2019

A Reason to Write

By Ken Billett

I love to write. I’ve always loved to write, and writing has always been one of those things that comes naturally to me. It’s my true creative outlet. I used to play guitar, and I still enjoy growing plants. Sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll tinker around the house. But writing is the one thing that gets me excited. I love putting words together to make sentences and placing those sentences together to make a story, a blog post, an online review, or an email. I write great emails.

Writing, like any craft, takes practice with lots of trial and error. Six years ago, my writing was rusty, very rusty. The better part of my working life was spent on business communications, employee handbooks and newsletters, teacher lesson plans, and, as I mentioned earlier, all those emails. My creative instincts remained within the boundaries of business needs and educational expectations.

Once I retired, however, the shackles were released, and I began to write for me. I started small: online travel posts and restaurant reviews, a couple of columns for a now-defunct local sports magazine, and, like many people, I blogged. I even resurrected my novel, or, as I call it, my white whale. It’s been a labor of love – and hate – for nearly ten years.

I joined local writers’ groups, enrolled in online courses, listened to podcasts, and attended a couple of writing conferences. Even as I continued to hone my craft, I grew increasingly frustrated with the results. My short stories were routinely rejected, and I went unpublished for several years.

Something was missing from my writing. I lacked an identity – what writers and publishers call voice. In addition, I sought a purpose for what I wrote.

Blogging helped me find my voice. Maintaining a personal blog gave me a reason to write and sharing my story gave my writing a purpose.

I have metastatic melanoma: a stage IV cancer. I started my blog shortly after my diagnosis in July 2013. I wanted my extended family and close friends to not only keep up with my prognosis but to better understand what I was going through. Early on, my posts were simple status reports along with an occasional rant. I was also erratic about updating my blog. I’d go for months – even a whole year – without a new post.

When my fiction writing stalled, blogging became my creative outlet. By writing about my cancer journey and sharing it with others, I discovered both my voice and a purpose.

Beginning last spring, I shared my journey with several national melanoma and skin cancer organizations. By publicizing my story, I wanted others with melanoma to know there is hope. This summer, I became a contributor to, and Coolibar Sun Protective Clothing published my journey in their Skin Diaries blog.

Along with my advocacy work, I’m now a freelance writer for a couple of local publications, and one of my short stories will soon appear in a mystery anthology.

It took me several years to find my voice as an author.

More importantly, a purpose for my writing.
A retired school teacher and former corporate benefits manager, Ken Billett is an active advocate for melanoma research and skin cancer prevention. He volunteers with several national melanoma organizations and chronicles his journey with an online blog. Ken and his wife, Vicki, have called Memphis, Tennessee home for more than thirty years. Ken also volunteers his time at the Blues Hall of Fame in downtown Memphis, and, when not tending to his flowers, he and Vicki travel extensively. Blog:

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