Indexing as Creative Discovery

Indexing as Creative Discovery

Live Workshop

More details coming soon

During this craft seminar, we will take a practical look at how to use index cards to brainstorm, write, and revise creative nonfiction.

When used as writing tools, index cards can not only retain facts and ideas, but can also keep track of important bibliographic and structural information for an essay or book; once collected, cards can then be spread out to visualize the shape of a written project, see what is missing, and envision what needs to be added. Participants should bring one essay-in-progress, one idea for an essay, and a pen and a pack of 3×5 index cards (lined or unlined). An internet connection is required.

This class has been taught in places such as the Northwestern MFA nonfiction program, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and the Tin House Writers Workshop. Give yourself the opportunity to take a class that is otherwise only available in-person, online, with me—with cameos with my dog Daphne, a look at the box of cards I used to write The Collected Schizophrenias, and plenty of time to ask questions about more than just index cards.

Participants should come prepared to write and share. Because of the nature of the class, the workshop will be recorded and shared with participants for 24 hours after it takes place, but a recording will not be made permanently available.

Here are kind words from someone who participated in the most recent workshop on May 24, 2020:

“I am a nursing professor and have written many scientific papers over the years. However, I started my writing many years ago with poetry and creative nonfiction. I feel called to do creative writing again. You made your method of indexing accessible to so many of us online—and with such good cheer and enthusiasm!”- Jeanne Murphy

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Scholarships for this workshop will be made available. More information TBA.



Donations will be made to Covid-19 related organizations. More information TBA.


If you have questions about the workshop. please DM me on Twitter at @esmewang.


I loved this (Northwestern MFA audience) and have used notecards ever since. Sometimes I cut them into half-cards or quarter-cards for essays. Thank you for sharing your system!

Laura Joyce-Hubbard

I loooooooved that class at Lighthouse in Denver… wanted to tell you, the method helped me write an essay that ended up landing me a teaching fellowship at Colorado State University! So yes, by all means teach it!

Courtney Zenner

The workshop was an eye-opener and great inspiration. I immediately came up with writing more than 100 index cards within a few hours right after the course and created a great outcome for a new essay. A cure for writers’ block and lots of fun! The method is really simple to use, adoptable to your own needs and well explained step by step. Esmé created such great vibes and a relaxed atmosphere. I’m very thankful for the experience.

Cordt Winkler

Esmé’s index card system opened my mind to a new way of organizing and reorganizing my ideas and sources. Her practical tips and advice helped me think about ways to [adjust] the system to the needs of my project. I am invigorated and excited to get to work!

Michele Ferrari

Esmé’s Indexing as Creative Discovery workshop truly offered a piece that was missing in my creative process. I am excited to begin using index cards to build both my personal essays and longer nonfiction projects.

Maya Gottfried

I’ve taken a lot of workshops. Esmé’s was really something special. I have a hunch that indexing may turn out to be the single most useful method I’ve ever learned.

Max Daniels

I wanted to express how much I enjoyed this workshop. Your approach and tone was surprisingly warm for a Zoom workshop—it’s such a hard thing to pull off when you don’t necessarily get the immediate feedback on how certain points are landing, and I felt like you pulled it off beautifully, making us feel like we were in the room with you… It feels empowering, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have taken this workshop. I have a feeling it’s going to have an immense impact on my writing process going forward.

Robin Yang

Smiling Asian woman, Esme Weijun Wang, with pixie blond haircut and red lipstick, arms foldedEsmé Weijun Wang is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays and The Border of Paradise: A Novel. She received the Whiting Award in 2018 and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists of 2017; she has also received fellowships to Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan and lives in San Francisco.