My first attempt at a doily was one of Trish Kristoffersen's "99 Little Doilies" (which, as you may know, contains written directions-only patterns). I chose it because I thought it looked simple-- no fancy stitches involved. And it probably was simple. However, I had two things working against me (in addition to the fact that it was my first experience crocheting with thread).
First: I was using variegated thread. While it's beautiful in a ball (and can be stunning in the right project), variegated thread usually seems to act like camouflage on fancy stitchwork, in my limited experience. It's not the best for a beginner trying to reassure herself that she's "doing it right".
Second: I turned my work after every round, even though the pattern never said anything about turning. (Forgive me. I was a newbie. I didn't know any better.)
The results, as you might expect, were less than stellar. Still, I persevered. I tried some micro doilies with diagram patterns-- and they worked!
Ever since, I've been hesitant to go back to written doily patterns. Other types of patterns, ok. I can deal with it if they're written, but a doily pattern changes with every row. So confusing! I've been a little bit intimidated, but one day last month, I finally took the plunge-- on another Patricia Kristoffersen doily, no less!
I chose to make "Peacock Pride" from Absolutely Gorgeous Doilies, in a teal/peacock blue (Aunt Lydia's "Classic River Blue"). So far, so good! I've actually been surprised by how easy it is to follow the written pattern, and I definitely won't be as scared of written patterns anymore.
One thing, though-- it does take more work to locate your place in a written pattern than in a charted / diagrammed one. With the diagram, I can find my place at a glance, but with the words, I need to read over a step or two to reassure myself that I'm looking at the right row. This could be helped with a sticky note to mark my spot. I've just been too lazy to bother with that.
...Anyway, learning that I can in fact follow a written doily pattern (without imploding under the weight of the stress and confusion) has opened up a whole new world of written patterns. I'm pretty excited! I went ahead and found another booklet of PK doilies on eBay-- Doilies with Charm. "Bewitching", watch out. I've got my eye on you...