Inspired by Éponine of Les Mis: Writing Mantras for When You’re On Your Own

By Lauren Edwards

I cried hardest in London. But I’ve wept through the Broadway musical Les Misérables  in other venues, too, including at the movie theater.  After Anne Hathaway won her Academy Award for the 2012 movie, I began including Éponine-inspired “mantras” in my writing workshops.

Eponine sings “On My Own” on the last page of Lauren’s workbooks

Eponine is my favorite of Victor Hugo’s selflessly loving characters. The title of her solo, “On My Own,” is on the last page of my spiral-bound workshop handouts. The idea is that when the workshop is over — when I’ve left my client’s office, when workshop participants are back at their own desks and “on their own” — that’s when they’ll need to be as resilient as Eponine.

Trigger for doing things differently

At the end of the workshop, I ask each person to choose a “mantra.” It’s not for meditation; it’s a slogan-like takeaway meant to trigger action. On the Éponine page of the handout (the final page), I have participants answer questions that indirectly lead to an informal action plan. They keep the answers to themselves, except for the last one, which is the mantra. It’s the participant talking to her/himself, briefly — just enough to fit on a Post-It Note, way shorter than a Tweet — with words of encouragement meant to trigger memories of what they want to do differently.

Each person says their mantra for all to hear, and I write them down.

Some are cryptic; that is, you have to be the person who wrote it to get it. Some are verbatim phrases from the workshop. Others are an amalgamation.

Inspiration for solving a problem

Below is a sampling of mantras from seven companies over the past two months. I picked the less-cryptic ones with the hope that some of these words will hit you like a lightbulb moment, like a sudden influx of illumination that helps you see differently, instantly.

Please give it a go. Think of it as a deck of inspirational flashcards meant to offer mystical insight. You never know when you might receive a secret message from the divine, helping you solve a problem in an unexpected way.

  1. Immediately useful is the new nice
  2. It’s OK to break the rules
  3. Turn the email upside-down
  4. Empathy & action
  5. Hook-why-how
  6. What does my audience care about?
  7. Precision
  8. Three key words
  9. Start with the punchline
  10. Create the appetite first
  11. Why, why now
  12. Be a bridge
  13. The box of puppies is news
  14. It’s OK to be human
  15. Provide a character
  16. Adapt to the writer’s readers
  17. Money flow in the ecosystem, not just company revenue
  18. Pay attention to questions
  19. Ask the question that leads to 10 more questions
  20. Talk it out

For more on Éponine, here’s a YouTube link to Lea Salonga performing in an anniversary-concert tribute to the musical.

And here’s Samantha Barks as Éponine in the movie.

Not to confuse you, but — for enjoyment of an extra dose of creativity — here’s a mashup of video from the Les Mis movie and a song from the musical Wicked, sung by Idina Menzel. It tells Éponine‘s story, though it’s not Eponine singing. You’ll also see Eddy Redmayne before he was famous, as Marius of Les Mis. While I’m at it, here’s his duet with Amanda Seyfried.

I hope you are feeling inspired in some way, whether by the mantras or the music!

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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for technology PR teams since 2000.

WriteCulture is now booking workshops for spring 2019. Contact us now to start the conversation.