Colette asked me to write about moving beyond the novice knitter stage, and I am happy to do so.
FIRST: find company. For me this was initially the Mason-Dixon ladies, whose first book I picked up serendipitously at the library in late 2006. Smart funny women who looked at their piano benches and said, "Hm, I think I'll knit a cushion cover for that"? Who knew? Ravelry has also made me a much better knitter, although I don't spend much time there. I don't have any local pals who like to knit as much as I do, but online acquaintances can share your enthusiasm too.
SECOND: learn new techniques on small projects. When I first I tried stranded colorwork and intarsia I was making kids' hats; the first time I felted something it was a little purse just large enough to hold my checkbook and keys. (How cute is Petely in that purse picture?) Kids' socks can teach you all kinds of things: using tiny needles, knitting in the round, slip-stitch patterning, short rows, picking up stitches, reading your decreases. They can get you started with grafting on a small scale, and if you mess it up it is unlikely that anyone will peek into the toes of your kids' socks to call you on it. It's still a drag if a small project is a total fiasco, but it's a small investment of time and money that can teach you something even as you gnash your teeth.
THIRD: look for projects that push your "MUST CAST ON" button. For me the first time this happened was Knitty's Ice Queen. I was so excited about putting on the finished product (which I still wear all the time, by the way) that I was willing to learn the stuff I didn't know. It felt a little extravagant to buy the skein of Kidsilk Haze, but OH did I want that cowl.
FOURTH: budget for good materials. I am not an extravagant person, I don't think, but I don't spend my knitting time with cheap yarn. I don't give up any of my limited stash space to acrylic; I rarely use cotton. I could buy a fair amount of bulky weight Red Heart for the cost of a skein of nice wool sock yarn, but I don't. I watch for sales; I peek in on eBay if I'm looking for a particular yarn that's out of my price range (score!); I bought a kit I really wanted from a destashing Raveler for a price I could stomach when the actual price tag left me wobbly. I recommend this strategy for two reasons: first, you are going to be spending a double-digit number of hours with the yarn running through your hands. The tactile experience matters. Second, wool is so much more forgiving than acrylic. You can't block acrylic; what's done is done.
FIFTH: consider your process/product balance. Hardcore process knitters may not finish projects; hardcore product knitters may develop tunnel vision. I have dialed back my product-knitter-ness a lot, and I am happier and more relaxed as a result. If the only goal is to finish with all speed, you may wind up stressed if something is harder than you expected or if you hit a snag.
SIXTH: learn to fix mistakes. I was making my mother a Seascape when I got a decrease backwards. I was so mad at myself (see above re: perfectionist product knitter). I was lying in bed feeling grouchy when it dawned on me that I could totally fix that mistake without tinking back. The next day...I did it! If you are not a novice knitter, you may wonder at that exclamation point. But I'm here to tell you, one exclamation point is restrained. If there's one thing that has made me a mellower and more fearless knitter, it is the knowledge that most mistakes can be fixed. I may not want to fix them. I may in fact burn through a number of pixels complaining loudly about fixing them. But fix them I usually can. So why worry about trying something new?