Why You Should Stay in Your Own Lane as a creative

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It’s tempting to hop on the bandwagon and follow the latest trends as we wait patiently - and not so patiently - to land our big break or an opportunity that gets us to the next level.

Writing books or creating scripts based on what’s hot right now, or building an online business modeled after someone else’s formula seems more appealing than sticking to your own strategy, especially when you’re barely gaining traction and others keep passing you by. Their success looks attractive, yet you feel like you're going nowhere. You start to think maybe what he/she did will work for me, so you give it a try (even when your heart's not in it), and you find yourself going in circles on a path that's not your own.  

When I first ventured into the blogging world in 2015, it seemed like everyone preached about the benefits of creating online courses. I toyed with the idea. I even jotted down some titles for my course, but as I continued to brainstorm, I couldn’t ignore that something didn’t feel right or authentic about it. I stumbled across my initial goals and mission statement for starting my website and noticed course creation was not on the map. I had to get honest with myself. Was I creating this course because I had something valuable to offer, or was I following a trend in hopes it would get me to my destination quicker?

I discovered my motive was the latter, and I scrapped the idea. At that time, my intentions to create a course was solely based on how others had used this strategy to achieve results I desired. It did not align with my vision two years ago. There was no joy or passion. My heart wasn’t involved.  I realized I needed to stay in my lane.

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Sometimes, we must silence the noise, detach from social media and quiet ourselves to ask the question: What makes my heart sing? What have I been called to do?  

Our talents, gifts and purpose don’t need to follow a trend or someone else’s timeline. Staying in our own lane means being true to who we are as artists and creatives. When you stay in your lane, you move at your own pace, and you don’t miss your destination because you’re trying to keep up with someone else. You don’t follow trends. You make them. You’re not competing for space in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a.k.a. an oversaturated market. You’re not waiting on others to replenish you. You’re fueled with authentic joy because you love what you do.

Let’s say you want to create stories that provide comic relief. Writing a gritty story about a serial killer doesn’t really align with your mission and will probably alienate your readers (unless you add a comedic element to the story, turning it into a dark comedy). There is nothing wrong with branching out to try new things, as long as it doesn’t distract you from your purpose. When it comes to fiction, I tend to write dark, contemporary stories with edge and heart. I can do this in multiple genres, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to write a novel similar to 50 Shades of Grey or a Zane novel, or a Beverly Lewis book. Writing erotic or Amish fiction is so out of my lane. I couldn’t fake it if I tried. So, I won’t.

When we force something to happen in a lane other than our own, we get lackluster results.  We restrict our talent and risk the chance of creating mediocre work. Our true potential goes unrealized.

As the innovative storyteller and filmmaker Ava DuVernay says, “When you're in your lane, there's no traffic."

Your lane allows you to travel at your own speed. There’s no need to compare your pace or race against someone else. We rob ourselves when we abandon our journey to follow a path not designed for us. It’s hard to make an impact when you’re standing in someone else’s shadow.

The next time you’re tempted to take a detour from your own lane, ask yourself: Does this move align with my mission? How will this help me get closer to my goal? Why am I pursuing this opportunity in this moment?

If you come up short with a valid reason, silence the noise and reflect on what makes your heart sing.

And then go and do that.