Hmm yes, the first time I tried GIMP, I had no luck whatsoever.
Fortunately, there are people here who will be more than happy to give you suggestions if you start trying out maps and post them over in the regional/world mapping forum, and mention what program you are using. Also be sure to check out the tutorial section; there are some really good GIMP tuts in there I think. Also, be patient; it can take quite a while to learn the intricacies of your chosen program (s)
Anyways, good luck, and Welcome to the guilde!