Learning to do something new can be scary.
A few years back I thought it’d be fun to write stories. I’d been producing assignments and reports for longer than I cared to mention. How hard could it be to transition from cold hard facts to narrative?
The answer, I discovered, was VERY.
Starting out, I fell into the usual trap for novices of using the most sophisticated and obscure words in the dictionary. Plus lots of lovely adjectives and adverbs to describe in minute detail the mental images I wanted to present.
Boring, boring, boring.
A few how-to-write courses and plenty of critical reading later, I’ve learnt to make sentences flow without cumbersome words to make your eye stumble. I’m still not entirely comfortable in my new writer’s skin, but I know how I want to write and I’ll keep on practising until I get there.
What does this have to do with learning to bake bread?
Plenty. Of all the foods on this wonderful earth, bread has to be my favourite. Even ahead of chocolate, smooth and seductive as it might be. Not only do I love the flavour of bread, but also the curve of the crust, the texture of hand-made loaves, the aroma when it’s fresh out of the oven. Eating bread is easy, making it is not.
My last attempt, around ten years ago, could have been used to replace pavers in my back yard. In a flash of insight, I realised the ability to make bread was a gift I didn’t have. So I gave up.
Last year my nephew came to stay. Every few days he’d make bread or pizza dough from scratch. It looked easy and what came out of the oven was to die for. I watched how he went about it. He used fresh yeast, which he mixed with tepid water and sugar in exactly the right proportions until it fizzed. He added the yeast mixture and a slurp of olive oil to the flour to make the dough. I noted how long he kneaded it and how long he let it rest.
Flying solo I’ve made a dozen loaves now without disaster and I’m starting to experiment. Today I made a German grain loaf. It’s delicious, if I might say so myself.
So what held me back?
Fear. Fear of failure. And fear of asking for help.
It reminded me of how far I’ve come with my practice of writing since those first stumbling steps. Learning is the most awkward, frustrating, exhilarating thing you can do.
The day you stop is the day you die. That’s my philosophy anyway.