Online Course

Spiritual Writing

July 11 - August 14

Level Fundamentals

Find the balance between the personal and the powerful, and learn how to share your thoughts with readers of differing beliefs or traditions.

 

Additional Information

This class will ask what, if anything, can make nonfiction writing “spiritual.” You will read selections from essays and memoirs in the spiritual writing genre and try composing your own versions of this material. How can we write about something so personal and powerful and share it with an audience of differing beliefs or traditions? How do writers move beyond saccharine sentimentality to illuminate a truth? You will choose a spiritual question or subject to explore in depth by writing two 500-word pieces and one article/essay of up to 3,500 words. The course will provide tips and inspiration for getting started, gathering material, and revising your work for publication. Writers from all backgrounds and faiths are welcome.

 

Course Schedule

Week 1: Shaping the Spiritual

This week will cover how writers working in the genre might define and describe “spiritual writing.” You'll take a look at how the body, culture, or identity might shape the parameters of a story or your approach. We’ll also explore the ways in which writing itself can serve as spiritual practice, both playful and prayerful. To get the juices flowing, you will have the option to write a short piece (up to 500 words) to share with the class, and you will choose a subject for your primary assignment.

Week 2: Framing the “I” in Faith

You'll confront challenges of placing individual perspectives of faith—so close to the heart—on the page as art. Often, we do not speak of spiritual or religious subjects because they can be just as divisive as inclusive, as sappy as salient. How can you mine your relationship to belief without alienating readers or losing the complexity that marks lived experience, particularly in the realm of emotion? You'll consider how form, voice, or narrative distance can frame such issues in creative ways. In preparation for the primary assignment, you will have the option to write another short piece (up to 500 words) to share with the class.

Week 3: Engaging the Other

Spiritual writing often engages people, places, or things that perplex, disturb, or mystify, and that draw us out of ourselves. Whether you face a religious institution’s complicated history, a family tradition, a desert, or a baffling stranger, you encounter uncertainty in stuff seen and unseen. You’ll imagine how to embrace such tensions with the “Other” in your work, and the ways in which you might incorporate disparate backdrops or backgrounds without losing the personal element or narrative momentum. You will also submit your primary assignment (an essay/article of up to 3,500 words).

Week 4: Speaking to You

Martin Buber writes that you “not only speak of God but also speak to him,” and Madeleine L’Engle adds that you don’t love in general, you love in particular—to live a spiritual life means risking closer communion with each other, with the earth, with the divine. You’ll study how writers might embody such desire—and its difficulties—through character or charism, prophecy or plea. You will also have the option of sharing your primary assignment with a small group of classmates for peer review.

Week 5: Re-Seeing and Representing Your Work

This week will cover techniques to revise and sharpen a spiritual writing piece to make it ready for publication. We’ll discuss best practices for submitting work to journals but also consider the bigger picture: allowing for risk and even failure, loving the roadblocks, and sustaining a practice.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

Course Registration

$260.00

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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

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Testimonials

I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill

Online Course FAQs

  • What day and time is my online course?

    Our courses run asynchronously; meaning, you will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a weekly basis; you should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but in most classes you will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Courses feature one live conference session, which does require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in this session is completely optional, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can accommodate most students. This is scheduled by the instructor after class begins. If you are not able to participate in the live conference you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences in boot camp courses.

  • What makes CNF’s classes different from other online programs?

    Flexibility

    Some online programs work on a “synchronous” model, which requires you to be online at an assigned time each week. The asynchronous model used in our classes means that you do not have to be online at any particular time of day, and can approach the class assignments at your own pace based on your schedule. While some optional events—such as class video conferences—do take place at a specific time, the majority of class activities can be completed according to your schedule.

    Intimate Classes

    Classes are small—limited to 14 students per section—which means you’ll receive individual attention and feedback on your work.

    Experienced Instructors

    Good writing instructors not only need to be skilled writers, but also need to have experience in teaching what they know to others. That’s why all of our instructors are professional writers with extensive teaching experience.

    Substantial and Meaningful Writing Assignments

    Many online writing programs ask you to complete short writing exercises each week, and only near the end of the class are you invited to write a single essay or chapter. At Creative Nonfiction, we recognize the value of exercises, but also believe that completing an essay or chapter is the best way for developing writers to really explore how all the elements of creative nonfiction work together. Writing complete pieces also leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and with work you can share when the class is completed. For this reason, in our classes you are invited to submit longer pieces multiple times during a course. See course syllabus for more information.

    Sense of Connection

    We realize that it is difficult to find one’s writing community—which is why we now offer every new student membership to a Community Page where you can meet with other CNF students, during and after class.

  • What are your community standards?

    Creative Nonfiction is committed to creating a welcoming and comfortable experience for all staff and participants regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, or religion.

    We expect that staff and participants will treat each other with respect in all interactions. We will not tolerate discrimination or harrassment in conjunction with any of our programs. Harassment could include but is not limited to:

    • Repeated disruption of classes, lectures or discussion
    • Deliberate intimidation
    • Unwelcome sexual attention
    • Comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression

    Community posts violating any of these guidelines can and will be removed from the page at any time. Anyone asked to stop harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

    Harassment does not include respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. Reading and writing, by their nature, include exposure to controversial, challenging, and sometimes offensive language. We encourage all participants to follow the peer review guidelines provided by their instructor.

    When you join a course you agree to…

    • respect others and respect their writing;
    • maintain the privacy of all submitted work;
    • treat others with respect;
    • not infringe on anyone’s copyright;
    • not harass, abuse, threaten or impersonate another user; and
    • not use libelous, obscene, or abusive work.


    Online Communication Guide

    Online communication happens without the benefit of body language and tone. Therefore, it can be easy to misinterpret. The following tips may help participants engage in civil, intelligent, vigorous discourse without impugning the personal dignity of others:

    1. Start from a position of generosity (i.e. assume that people mean well)
    2. Address your post to someone or to the group. Instead of “Hey” or just jumping in to your post, try “Hi All” or “Hi [Name].”
    3.  Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and/or exclamation points! 🙂
    4. Please avoid ALL CAPS whenever possible, as they tend to come off as RUDE or YELLING.
    5. Avoid harsh or offensive language of any kind. If you’re in doubt, try rewording or reconsidering your post.
    6. Sarcasm is very difficult to convey in writing — best to avoid it.
    7. When interacting with your peers, please consider that some may have limited experience with English, online education, and/or creative writing. It’s a good rule of thumb not to write anything you wouldn’t say if that person were standing in front of you.
    8. Often writers from underrepresented groups are asked to explain everything for an assumed monolithic audience (often cis/white/hetero/masculine/able-bodied, etc. etc.). As you respond to peers’ work, keep in mind that you may not be the writer’s intended audience, and leave room for the possibility that the writer is writing for a group of which you are not a member. (For more on this, listen to this episode of Code Switch for an in depth conversation.)

    See your course for additional feedback guidelines provided by your instructor.

  • How do I find my course archive?

    All course work is saved in Wet.Ink. When the course closes, you can find the archive by logging in to your account, and choosing “Past Classes.” Archives include course content (lectures, readings, writing prompts, etc.), your posts and writing submissions, and any feedback given on your writing. The course archive will not include your classmates’ writing submissions.

  • What do the course levels mean?

    FUNDAMENTALS—open to all levels.
    Our fundamentals courses are designed for those who are new to writing or new to creative nonfiction, as well as those who could benefit from a back-to-basics review on how to effectively and intentionally use elements of the writer’s craft.

    INTERMEDIATE—prerequisites suggested. 
    Our intermediate courses are designed for writers who have some experience either in the genre or CNF’s courses. Past course participation is not required, but we do recommend starting with one of our fundamentals courses, especially Foundations of Creative Nonfiction.

    ADVANCED—prerequisites for enrollment. 
    Our advanced courses are for writers who have completed two previous online courses (not including self-guided courses) with Creative Nonfiction (one must be an intermediate level course).