This is the lesson I try to pass along to everyone I teach: do not be afraid of the knitting. I am not sure how this fear of knitting got started. I myself had this fear when I first started knitting: the fear that I would make a mistake and as a result, ruin the whole piece.
You cannot ruin the whole piece. You only need start again. Sure, it can be frustrating if you are twelve inches into a complicated lace pattern only to discover you've dropped a stitch at inch #four. This is why lifelines were invented. And yes, it helps if you use reasonably-priced yarn until you are comfortable. This is why Red Heart is $1.99 a skein.
In the beginning, however, you have to be free to experiment. Work out how to hold the needles in a way that is comfortable for you (continental, american).
Experimentation is how I stumbled across my current scarf pattern, a reversible rib. I was sitting in my car, killing time before my doctor's appointment. Having learned my lesson about not bringing a project, I had needles and a nice dk weight varigated merino in my purse. "Let's try a drop stitch pattern!" I thought to myself (I had just finished re-reading the Clapotis pattern after seeing the photos on Franklin's blog). Ok, that looks yucky (rip, rip, rip). Now what? Cables would not show very well on the stripes. I had already tried a straight stockinette. This yarn was recovered from another scarf I made in stockinette that rolled like a stack of quarters no matter how much I blocked it.
Then I tried a 3x2 rib pattern on an even-number of stitches. I have lately become enamored of even numbered patterns on odd-numbered stitches. I thought this would make a nice crumbly nap but it turned out to be much more interesting.
Brewgal's Reversible Rib Scarf
Cast on 34
Knit first row (I find starting with one knit row is easier than starting the pattern off the cast on row.)
Slip 1, knit 1 (edge stitch). *Knit 3, purl 2* repeat 6 times, knit last two stitches.
Repeat this row until scarf reaches desired length, knit last row, cast off.
Nothing fancy. I used #6 needles on dk weight yarn. This makes a cute little 2-stitch-wide rib on both sides.