Online Course

The Healing Power of the Artful Essay

Jul 11 - August 14, 2022

Level Fundamentals

Creating images and scenes and shaping our stories—transforming experience into art—can also transform our selves.

 

 

Additional Information

Studies of expressive arts therapy show that the act of writing can be profoundly therapeutic. They also show many intersections between techniques that put the “creative” in creative nonfiction and writing techniques that can aid in coping and healing, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system. Drawing from Natalie Goldberg’s use of writing as a kind of Zen meditation, James Pennebaker’s studies of expressive art, and Louise DeSalvo’s examination of writing as a means of healing, among others, this workshop will explore the many ways in which creating images and scenes and shaping our stories, transforming experience into art, can also transform us.

Course Schedule

WEEK 1: THE INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN EXPRESSIVE ARTS AND ARTISTIC WRITING

When many people think of therapeutic writing, they imagine writing about traumas or unresolved issues. That can be an important dimension of writing as a healing art, but there are other therapeutic uses of writing, too. This week, we’ll look at some of the ways that writing can help us to de-stress and redirect our focus as well as how writing about the struggles we have faced can help us to cope. We’ll explore the field of expressive arts therapy and the ideas of researchers like James Pennebaker and writers like Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Louise DeSalvo, and Diana Raab. We’ll begin with a short writing exercise.

WEEK 2: EXPLORING TECHNIQUES OF WRITING TO PROMOTE HEALING

Both traditional and nontraditional ideas of narrative can offer us models for thinking about our experiences—moments of revelation, transformation, understanding, forgiveness, and perspective. This week, we’ll delve more deeply into mindsets, techniques, and processes that have proven to be valuable for healing purposes; discuss approaches that inhibit us; look at some essays that exemplify both healing and artistic techniques; and try out some more exercises to start building your own essays that borrow from these ideas.

WEEK 3: THE FRAGMENTED ESSAY, THE WHOLE SELF

Lyric essays, particularly collages, braids, lists, and other forms that use fragmentation, can offer useful ways to explore our experiences and sometimes even shift our vision as we find connections between seemingly unrelated material. These forms may be ends in themselves, or they may give us techniques we can integrate into other approaches. This week, we’ll look at a variety of examples and explore a variety of techniques that can assist in developing your essay in progress, discuss the stages of the writing process, and continue to work on exercises that will lead us toward a skeleton draft of a piece.

WEEK 4: THE VALUE OF REVISION TO AID IN HEALING AND DISCOVERY

How can the revision process—the deepening of ideas, the development of scenes and image patterns, the enlarging of symbols, the heightening of important moments—help us to understand the patterns in both our narratives and our lives and give us a new perspective? We’ll learn about approaches to revision and consider how revisiting, rethinking, recasting, reshaping, and fleshing out experience can help us discover layers of meaning and lead us to a greater sense of health and wholeness. Turn in your essay this week for feedback.

WEEK 5: SHARING, RESPONDING, REFLECTING

This week we’ll consider ways we can respond to others’ work that are not only supportive and nurturing, but that also ultimately can make us better writers. We’ll end this course by reflecting on our own experiences of healing through writing and ways of moving forward to continue to integrate these ideas into our processes and the stories we write.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

Course Registration

$310.00

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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.

Read Success Stories

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).