During one of John Grisham’s recent book tours, Grisham answered questions posed by readers. One reader posed the basic question “How can I become a writer?” I thought Grisham’s response was fantastic. He essentially responded by saying “Do you want to be a writer, or do you want to write?” It was a very thought-provoking answer, and I think the same logic applies to the guitar.
I think most of us got into playing guitar because we wanted to be a guitar player. We were inspired by our favorite guitarist(s), and we picked up the instrument to try and recreate the music that we loved. Moreover, many of us wanted to be a famous guitar hero that other people look up to like we looked up to our heroes. Wanting to be a guitar player is not a bad thing. However, at some point, those of us that stick with the instrument must make the transition from wanting to be a guitar player to wanting to play guitar.
You might be wondering, “What’s the difference?” The distinction is this. Wanting to be a guitar player is an external motivating factor. The focus is on how other people perceive you. By contrast, wanting to play guitar is an internal motivating factor. You are playing guitar because you want to, not because you want others to perceive you as a guitar player. If you want to play the guitar, you will do so even if no one else knows about it. It takes a lot of hours woodshedding in order to be a great guitar player, and most of those hours are spent alone hunched over the guitar. And, spending all that time requires a great desire to play the guitar.
Although I think wanting to play guitar is more important than wanting to be a guitar player, I’m not suggesting that you can’t want to do both. In fact, some of the best artists are those that love the guitar so much, they can’t think of doing anything other than being a guitar player and playing the guitar all the time. The choices are not mutually exclusive. However, I don’t think you can ever be a great guitar player unless you want to play guitar all the time.