I kinda follow recipes in that I use them as a starting point for things that I cook, but then from there I substitute a buncha things. I stop measuring after like the first two ingredients. Like when CW is helping me make sopapillas and he asks how much flour to put in, I'm like "uh, I usually put like 6 or 7 handfuls."
When I started crocheting, I tried so hard to follow patterns because I wanted to make ALL THE CUTE SHIT I saw in my book. I saw everything my Bestie, Stephy was making and I was like, I fucking love it ALL. Then my brain was like, WTF is this? I don't get it. So I just started crocheting shit on the fly. I still do that. Now that I've been crocheting for a while, I can kinda sorta follow patterns, but I'm a lot better on my own. For some strange reason, I find it easier to look at something and then go from there.
Take today's strawberry pie, I read a few recipes, didn't like that a lot of them wanted me to add jello... didn't have cornstarch. So I just went with it and did my own thing. My pie came out pretty good. Now, I know next time to maybe add a little more of this and a little more of that and let it chill for longer, but all in all, it came out well. It's mostly trial and error with cooking, baking, painting, and even crocheting. :)