I recently had to take a break from reading and writing due to a medical condition, and I was absolutely miserable. As my stack of books from the library that I couldn’t read grew higher and my notebooks sat untouched, I grew more and more desperate to get back to my job. However, now that my eye healed a couple weeks ago, I had a lot of trouble getting back into my writing. I had spent over a month away from my current project and I felt very distant from it.
This week I was finally able to write a couple thousand words, set up my story board, and really get back into the story. And that is all thanks to one of my greatest sources of inspiration – the story of Les Misérables.
I’ll be honest—I’ve never read the book. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years, but I have a lot of trouble reading older fiction and I just have not been able to get into it. But I have seen the musical more times than I can count, including an amazing front-row experience on Broadway, and it is my favorite story that I have ever encountered.
For those of you who don’t know, Les Mis is about a French man named Jean Valjean, a former convict who broke his parole but turned his life around. He becomes a changed man thanks to the mercy of a bishop, but is hunted throughout the years by one of his former guards, Inspector Javert. The two find each other years later when Valjean helps one of his workers and promises to care for her child. After revealing himself, Valjean escapes again to start a new life for the child, and does not encounter Javert again until ten years later. The story culminates in France’s June Rebellion of 1832. Les Mis is the ultimate story of redemption, hope, fighting for what’s right, and dreaming for a better life.
I love this story, and all I needed to do to get back into my own writing was to surround myself by the wonder of this incredible story. I watched the 2012 film, the 25th Anniversary Concert, and the 1998 non-musical film starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. I also re-read one of my favorite books—A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher, which is a novelization of the story of Éponine, one of the characters in Les Mis.
When you are feeling stuck in your creative life, surround yourself by the things that inspire you. For me, that is the remarkable story of Les Mis. This story has influenced just about everything I’ve written, and it replenishes me and re-inspires me to get back to doing the work I love.