Creative Nonfiction Writing Exercises

Instructor: Nicky Davis
Creative nonfiction borrows literary styles and forms to recount actual events and can include biographies and personal essays. Keep reading to find exercises for creative nonfiction writers as well as resources to help writers advance their skills.

Exercises for Writing Creative Nonfiction

Below, find a variety of exercises to help you get started writing original and imaginative true stories. With some exercises that will help get you thinking and some designed to inspire your creativity, there's something here for writers at every level.

Memory Walk

Go on a walk around a place you know well, maybe it's your home, your neighborhood, or a specific park or building. As you're walking, make mental note of places that trigger certain memories from your past. Then, when you get back from your walk, write about the most vivid memory you recollected.

Free Write and Highlight

Sit down and write your stream of conscious thoughts for 5-10 minutes. Follow these two simple rules: never lift your pen from the paper, and when you can't think of anything new to write, simply write 'I can't think of anything' again and again until your next thought arrives. Once you've finished your free write, go back through what you wrote and highlight the thoughts or ideas that are most interesting to you. Let those ideas inspire a new piece of creative nonfiction.


Think of something you are particularly skilled at; maybe it's a task or hobby, or maybe it's simply talking to your grandmother on the phone. Then, use the format of a how-to guide, or self-help manual written in second person, as a framework to write about your expertise and experience with this activity.

Enemies and Friends

Write two profile pieces, one about a person you really love and one about someone you really don't like. Which is easier to write? Consider why one is easier for you to write than the other. When you're writing, try to keep two objectives in mind: paint a well-rounded portrait of the person you're writing about, and at the same time, see if you can persuade your reader to feel the same way about this person as you do.

Chronicles of You

Do some research on the major historical moments that have taken place over the years since your birth. Craft a timeline that combines major national and international occurrences, major pop cultural moments, and your own landmark moments. Allow the intersection of different moments in history to inspire your writing about one of the events on your personal timeline.

Recipe Book

Imagine an important or memorable gathering of your friends and family. Now, compose the story of that event or tradition in the form of a recipe. Who and what are the ingredients you'll need? How do they get combined and where? Use the language of cookbooks to keep your storytelling unique and give yourself a creative challenge!

Writer's Resources

Writers interested in learning more about the genre of creative nonfiction or seeking to better their writing skills can check out the resources available on The courses and chapters below can help you better understand the craft of nonfiction writing and guide you toward improving your own essay-writing and composition abilities.

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