Online Course

Zen of Process

July 12 - August 15

Level Intermediate

As you connect and synthesize your ideas, you’ll see how a strong voice and structure emerge in your work—elements that, ultimately, make readers want to turn pages.

Additional Information

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” — Steve Jobs

Storytelling is a basic human impulse. It sounds easy—and sometimes it is, once we tap into our deeper expressive power. The problem is not always finding the time to write, or even what to write, but how to make the connections with our material so that we can be true to our own unique perspectives.

In this class, you will learn how to recognize natural patterns and connections, and practice synthesizing them for top emotional impact. No matter the length of your project, this means asking questions about your narrator’s goals, your favored style, and yourself as a writer and human. You will have opportunities to experiment with making connections in your work without fear of consequences.

This isn’t about being the smartest or most intellectual writer, but it is about having the most heart and asking yourself the hardest questions. As you connect and synthesize your ideas, you’ll see how a  strong voice and structure emerge in your work—elements that, ultimately, make readers want to turn pages.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Smart with Heart

We will use a modernized approach of the “Hero’s Journey” to look at what makes us tick as writers. What are we better at that anyone else, and how can we capture that in our story? Exercises include summarizing our story using three adjectives, developing a “logline”, creating a purpose statement, and addressing how to avoid bravado in our narrative. Reference material will be: Living the Hero’s Journey: Exploring Your Role in the Action-Adventure of a Lifetime by Will Craig and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

Week 2: Check Out This Pattern!

In this session, we will look at the natural connections to the work you’ve already done. What have you been in the habit of doing that works, or that doesn’t? What kind of language makes time fly as you read it? Strategies for synthesizing those connections will include a lesson on “clustering”—a brainstorming technique that opens and clears the creative pathways, often undoing old habits that aren’t working. Reference material will be Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, Ph.D.

Week 3: Lies, Lies, Lies

Memoir or memoir-like essays can do many things with the form, but in order to have impact, they require a certain degree of brutal honesty. In this session, we will address some tough questions: What are the lies in your story—the ones you’re telling yourself and the ones you’re telling others? Which are the ones you can stand to admit? We'll work together to connect the dots and get to our deepest truths.

Week 4: Hybrid, Lyrical, Fragments, Oh My!

We might love a certain style but what we produce looks and feels like something different. We will explore different forms by reading short pieces and generating work based on our reactions, mimicking style at times. We will engage in a creative letter-writing exercise and process feedback from peers with the intention of coming closer to learning about our own limitations and gifts.

Week 5: Syn·the·size 

We’ve looked at our creative patterns and generated new work in reaction to readings or from inspired moments. You’ve learned how to talk about what your story is about, and you can describe your favorite—and favored—styles of creative nonfiction writing. You also know where your talents lie. This last week is devoted to connecting the dots.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

Course Registration

Early Registration ends 06/15/2021 $310.00 $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.

Read Success Stories


Meghan O’Gieblyn was an incredible instructor, offering generosity, expert instruction, and invaluable feedback to all students in the class.


Education FAQs

  • What day and time is my class?

    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 online courses different from other online programs?

    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 throughout the week 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 that you can share when the class is completed. For this reason, in our classes you are invited to submit longer essays 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.

  • When do you offer courses? How long are they?

    Our terms include 5- and 10-week courses and run in fall (September-December), winter (January-March), and spring (April-June). In summer (June-July), we offer only 5-week courses.

  • What is the Community Page?

    Communities are forums in Wet.Ink where members can connect and interact around writing. Every online CNF student is a member of the general “Creative Nonfiction Community,” and each course includes an opportunity to join a private community with your classmates for when class is over.

  • The course I’m interested in is sold out. Is there anything I can do?

    Sometimes spaces open up as people’s schedules change. If you’d like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please contact us here.