Keeping a sourdough starter going is something like having a pet. It's by no means zero maintenance, and messes will happen.
Baking with a sour starter is very rewarding, and at some point every good baker should have and maintain his or her own starter. Not all starters are created equal. Native strains tend to eventually overtake commercial yeasts which may or may not be a good or a bad thing. It also takes some experience and time to get the starter to where it will produce a bread with tang.
You can start your starter with wild yeasts, or get a more certain result by purchasing a culture of known virility and properties. One of the best cultures available is Carl Griffith's. It's available free, from Friends of Carl, a group of ... well ... friends of Carl's who have decided to keep his spirit alive through his culture. Here's a link: Carl Griffith Sourdough Page
The instructions there on getting the starter going, and keeping it healthy are a little more mainstream, detailed and/or reliable than some.
FWIW, it only takes a week before a starter with a proven culture is ready to go -- and about a week and a half if you can get some good wild yeast. But even a very good starter's going to take a month or so before it makes a bread with a lot sourdough punch. The process involves keeping the colony in a semi-starved condition for a long period of time. After awhile the stronger, more sour yeast take over the colony and the sweeter yeast die out. "Awhile" is the operative word, and that's what it takes.
If you want to try a bread with some tang that won't take a month, try the pumpernickel sour rye recipe here: http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/pastr...tml#post223416
It will give you a sense of how European bakers deal with creating a sour complexity; and while the poolish isn't as strong as a sourdough starter the technique of building the bread from poolish plus everything else is very similar to the technique of building a sourdough. That's "preferment" for you.
In the meantime you can play with your sourdough, using it for pancakes and biscuits before moving on to bread.
Oh, btw, sourdough breads act "slack," that is, they act as though they have more water than they actually do -- so when you get to baking, keep an eye on that and have plenty of bench flour present for when you knead.
Hope this gives you some ideas,
PS. Do try the pumpernickel, you'll like it.