Chekhov say what?: The best content advice from classic writers

The modern world has produced some amazing things for content creators.


Thanks to the inventions of the past century – predominantly, the internet – we have the ability to analyse the success of what we create, share it on a global scale and learn from seemingly limitless resources.

But the technologies of today are not the be all and end all when it comes to creating great content. That’s because it also requires initiative, determination and skill – emotional and mental factors that the web cannot provide on your behalf.

No. For these factors, you need something more than technology. You need inspiration.

Cue, classic writers. In our opinion, classic writers have shared some of the most timeless content advice available to creatives today. Their words of wisdom can help you navigate writer’s block, impostor syndrome and more – providing you with key insights that’ll help you conjure up lasting content for your brand. We share some of our favourite quotes below, along with advice on how to apply their teachings to your brand.


1. Be passionate


“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” ― Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou

Source: Medium


Enjoying what you do – loving your brand and the clients you work with (if any) – is something to strive for. In our opinion, passion produces better content, as you’ll feel motivated to create, pour more soul into your work and can speak on behalf of brands (yours and others) in a way that’s genuine, enthusiastic and relatable to their target audiences – ultimately achieving better results.

Further, while passion is not a prerequisite for your brand being successful, it should give your success more longevity. Customers can sense authenticity and heart in content from a mile off, so if you have true passion for what you do – and the means to communicate it – that should shine through.

Applicable content advice: Love what you do. It’ll make the work more fun, fruitful and effective.


2. Prioritise clarity


“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain


Mark Twain

Source: BBC


Be damn straightforward. It’s no mystery that attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been. Your content’s purpose needs to be clear from the get-go if you want to hook in your intended audience. Not only that, but once you’ve captured their attention, you need to contend with the fact that it may be brief!

To combat this, ensure your work is engaging and not “overly fluffy” – making it as easy as possible for the right folk to understand your content’s purpose quickly. The key is to act as though you only have their attention for a minute, and to do everything you can to make every second count. Of course, they may well stick around for longer if they like your content – but by using this notion to sharpen and refine your work, you’ll ensure that everything you create counts.

Applicable content advice: Be discerning with your content. Make sure it’s always clear, and that everything you create supports your brand’s purpose and/or makes your audience feel connected to you. Preferably both. 


3. Don’t compare yourself


“You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.” – Rainer Maria Rilke


Rainer Maria Rilke

Source: The Atlantic


While there’s something to be said for knowing what your competitors are up to, nothing matters more than embracing your own brand’s character. Consider all the companies who’ve completely gone against the grain of traditional advertising to connect with their consumer base; Old Spice with their brilliant (and ridiculous) adverts, Innocent Drinks’ jovial Twitter feed, Lagavulin’s Ron Swanson-centric whisky campaign, or the regular roasts Wendy’s starts online (that we can’t link to, as there are so many). Japan’s entire advertising industry, too, which is recognised the world over for the incomparable content it produces. We especially love the Long Long Man advert.

The point is: this is the content we remember. Work that builds a brand’s character, and sets them apart from their competition. There’s no use in comparing, then – instead, go forth and create content that says what you want it to say, and helps you to build a strong identity. 

Applicable content advice: Give your competitors less clout over your content. Don’t be afraid to shake off industry norms and build a brand identity – and any content that supports it – that’s uniquely your own.


4. Find a new angle


“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov


Anton Chekhov

Source: Literary Hub


When we write – or create anything, for that matter – we all end up sharing the same messages. It’s inevitable, because there will always be people before you who have spoken about the things you want to speak about. If you’re a food brand, perhaps that’s a certain recipe. If you’re a translation agency, languages. A pet grooming store, different types of animal shampoo. You get my drift.

The trick, then, is to try and find a new angle – a view that only you can offer. Because while the same stories have been told throughout history over and over again, nobody can tell them in the way that you can, for the simple fact that there’s only one you. Search for the angle that only you can find, then, and interweave that through your work. Like we’ve said – personality can be instrumental to a brand’s success… and your perspective is the foundation that it sits upon.

Applicable content advice: What insights can you offer that no-one else can? This should be the first question you ask when creating new content. Incorporating this perspective will give your work more pzazz, and your audience will be more interested in what you have to say, too.


5. Just start


“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner


Source: The Daily Beast


You could spend years twiddling your thumbs and agonising over the content you’d like your brand to create. But what you should really be doing is… well, doing it!

Great content doesn’t come from thin air – it comes from practice, and you can’t practice something you haven’t started. Begin creating, then, and enjoy experimenting as you go: playing with your tone of voice and getting to know your audience, which should further help steer your content in the right direction.

Above all, don’t be afraid to take the leap. You won’t be chained to the content paths you start your brand on, and can always change things later down the line.

Applicable content advice: Quit dreaming and make your brand’s content a reality. It may not be perfect, but you can edit it over time – and will become a better creator with practice.


6. Chase off doubt


“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath

Source: British Library


Think your brand isn’t the right fit for outstanding, jaw-dropping, unforgettable content? Wrong. Any brand can be communicated creatively, and there will be a million ways to tell your stories in a unique and interesting way. Challenge yourself to innovate – combining your perspectives and most creative ideas to put something together that your target audience will truly appreciate. You’ve got this!

Applicable content advice: Every brand is content-worthy – so don’t discount the idea of creating some for yours, no matter your niche. ‘Nuff said.


Want more tips from the team? Keep tabs on our blog.

Posted By

Laura Demaude