I like this post from a well-known guitar forum:
“it’s great that you have identifed the desire to self-express – that’s the first step IMO.
In my view, the next step might be to cultivate the music that’s inside of your head or ‘inner ear’ and bring out and develop your own musical voice. By this I mean the notes and melody and harmony and rhythm that are informed by your influences and which you can extend, build from, add onto, or even discard in search of something that is original and unique to you from your conscious and unconscious mind. To me this has *nothing* to do with what gear you have – guitar, amps, effects – I think this part comes later as you are trying to refine what it is you want your voice to sound like, but again, the first step in having your own sound is creating your own music – *your* own sequence of notes, your own chord choices, your own rhythms – composed, improvised, whatever.
My goal (YGMV) is to be able to realize the music that’s in my head on my instrument instantly without barriers and without fumbling. I hope to achieve this within my lifetime. Yours might be catchy songwriting, riff creation, or what not – whatever it is, I think stepping away from copping other people’s music and trying to create your own is a solid first step. Yeah – there are always great licks you might want to learn, but turning down the mix on that and upping the amount of time you spend exploring what is inside of you is to me more fulfilling than spending years trying to recreate someone else’s creations.
If you’ve got music already inside your head that you’ve come up with yourself, no matter how derivative it might seem at first, work on it – feed the little candle flame until it becomes a big fire of music trying to get out of you – sing it in your head and try to take it somewhere. I try to ‘play’ a lot in my head when I am away from my guitar – with no barriers between what I want to hear and what my fingers can do, I think the music has more freedom to go to new places. When you do sit down with your instrument then try to play this music on the guitar – try to forget all your other licks and songs from others.
Of course, getting to this place has waypoints along the journey I think – and discovering them is part of the fun – there are so many ways and frameworks and approaches and styles and so forth to get caught up in, to learn from, to build on , I believe that if you take this path your passion for music and your instrument will be ultimately much greater than ever before.