Shakespearean lessons for content creators

Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Hannah Comerford, Scribe Contributor

This week the world celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. Whether you hated reading Romeo and Juliet or you find yourself quoting sonnets regularly, chances are your vocabulary shows signs of his influence. Don’t believe me? Shakespeare Online attributes over 1,700 words to Shakespeare. From our everyday language to West Side Story, it’s nearly impossible to avoid Shakespearean references in our Western culture. Just think of all the royalties he’d be making if still alive.

Not many of us will earn undying success in the way Shakespeare did. Yet, content creators can glean business wisdom from his creative practices. Here are three ways Shakespeare became a literary legend.

He appealed to his whole audience. Shakespeare knew that at any given performance a nobleman and a peasant would be watching his play. If he catered to one class, he’d lose the other. So, in order to reach everyone, he appealed to both tastes. Shakespeare used high-class references and wit to appeal to the nobility while inserting everyday characters and dirty jokes to appeal to the “cheap seats.” No audience member left behind.

Businesses often have a broad target audience. A great marketer will develop content to reach each demographic.

He borrowed creativity. Shakespeare wasn’t entirely original. The vast majority of his plays borrowed characters, plotlines, songs, or poems from other works. Yet this wasn’t plagiary. Shakespeare understood that we all will be influenced by the creativity that came before us. Rather than ignore the creative content of others, he embraced it and made it his own.

Pay attention to copyright laws, but don’t be afraid to let others influence your writing. Credit your sources while putting your own spin on their ideas.

He kept writing. And writing. And writing. And writing. Even the most ardent Shakespeare lovers will admit that not all his plays were that strong. Some aren’t performed much because they’re not well written. But that’s okay. Shakespeare didn’t let the success or failure of any one moment keep him from writing.

Whether your current writing is a success or a failure, don’t stop. Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even Shakespeare worked with coauthors from time to time.