Playing the guitar is quite a journey. We all experience periods of unshakable motivation, yet moments of absolute despair will always creep in. Well, maybe not despair, but you understand what I mean. Believe it or not, I've only felt the pure motivation to play my guitar every day for the past three years. After two years of struggling to find the slightest bit of motivation or inspiration to pick it up. What changed?
1. Perspective is Everything
This is how I've come to see it. If you don't feel like playing guitar, you're probably playing for the wrong reasons. In fact, I'm positive you're playing for the wrong reasons. There's only one reason I play guitar: to have fun—to enjoy the instrument and what it offers. Playing guitar is good for me: mentally and emotionally, in every way possible. If you're having fun, what other motivation do you need?
I see many guitarists getting caught up, trying to be the best, comparing themselves to others and getting discouraged. Stop doing that! It's not about what everyone else is doing. Guitar time is entirely about you. You should only compare yourself to yourself—from yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. Take anything you see as inspiration or motivation, indicating what's possible on this beautiful instrument.
I also see others losing motivation to play in their pursuit of "fame" or earning a living off their music. This is a giant motivation killer. Play for fun! If anything comes from it, great. If not, at least you're having the time of your life! I don't think this is why we originally started learning to play guitar, right? The mental and emotional benefits outweigh any monetary benefits, in my opinion!
2. You'll Never Be Perfect!
Don't be a perfectionist. Trust me when I say this: you'll never hear your own playing as perfect. It's not going to happen. I urge you to avoid being too judgemental or overly critical of your playing. Getting caught up in the details is reserved for the practice room. When it's playtime, enjoy the skills you've developed in your practice sessions. And when practicing, the goal should simply be to improve, not become perfect.
3. Be Extremely Patient
Impatience is a curse. You have to enjoy every minute of this journey. The time will pass either way: the hours, days, weeks, months, and years. How you want to have spent that time is entirely up to you.
Here's a personal experience: the last technique I focused on was sweep picking. I was too busy to put in a lot of time. Still, I figured if I could just allocate fifteen to thirty minutes to practising sweep picking a few times a week, I'll eventually be able to sweep. It took me a year for it to come together. Of course, it can be done quicker with more consistency and more focus, but that's not important. The point is it came together. I knew that I would wake up one day, and BAM, I could sweep!
The clock is going to keep ticking. Use it to your advantage. Make time your friend, not your enemy.
4. Accept Your Weaknesses
This goes back to my previous point. Accept that some things will take you much longer than they took others to accomplish. I've always disliked the question, "How long have you been playing?" Or "how long did it take you to be able to do that?" Everyone has their own timeline.
And let me tell you, there isn't enough time for one person to master everything the guitar offers. So choose wisely. Spend your time focusing on what you truly want to be able to do. Just because it seems like everyone else is alternate picking doesn't mean you have to. If you want to, great. But don't compare yourself to others. Choose to focus on the skills that mean something to you personally. Those are the ones you're going to enjoy, and those are the ones that are going to have you motivated to pick up the guitar.
5. Play for Yourself
This is the most important of all. Don't play to please others. Where's the joy in trying to play what you think others might enjoy or playing what others tell you to play?
Play what you want to play.
There are no rules, regardless of what anyone tells you. You don't have to be a songwriter, you don't have to be an improviser, you don't have to be a lead guitarist or a rhythm guitarist. Think about what you really want. Don't confuse this with what you enjoy listening to. Really sit down and try to find what you genuinely enjoy playing and pursuing on the guitar.
Find what that is, and you'll never lose motivation. You may also find your unique voice along the way.