A year or more ago, and thanks to Mary Berry, I came across the best sponge cake recipe ever. It was a success the first time, and has been the same ever since. So, last Christmas, when I asked for a baking book, of course I stipulated it had to be one of hers. I’ve tried a few recipes from the book, and they’ve all turned out ok, but definitely not the best ever. Each time the cookies turned out undercooked, or the caramel shortcakes had too much caramel, I knew that if I had stopped sticking religiously to the recipes, and had followed my instincts, they would have been a hundred times better.
Self-doubt instance 1 equals mediocre baking.
After a caramel-heavy weekend, I went to the library to get a book on creative writing by Stephen King – yes, the Stephen King. It is brilliant, in the league of best ever. Oh dear. Today, after reading a chapter railing against needless descriptiveness and the evils of the adverb, I went back to my last attempts at fictional writing and ruthlessly (adverb!) pruned them. My grumpiness afterwards told me I had made a mistake. I’m not writing The Shining for goodness sake! I had taken my heart out of my writing, and it will probably show.
Self-doubt instance 2: empty fiction.
So, here is my fleeting epiphany: I am not a grey-haired perfect baker with 50 years experience under her apron strings, nor am I a best-selling horror novelist, awe-inspiring as they are. Can you believe it?! Maybe it’s time to think about what and who I am. Maybe it’s time to weigh up the countless voices of the people I respect against my own. Maybe, that way, I’ll find the best ever of me.