I really think it’s very important to always stay “tuned in” to yourself when you are either deliberately or not so deliberately looking for new ideas on the guitar. This can be trickier than you think, because I feel that until you’ve reached a certain level of awareness and proficiency, you may not even realize that some little gem may be flowing out of your fingers! I can recall when I was working with John Prine, how he’d always say to me, “Arlen, can you teach me a new chord so I can write a new song?” That used to blow me away, because it was such an indication of how he really knew exactly where his talent was at, and how he also knew very clearly, his limitations. John is someone who derived most of his inspiration from words, and the music he put to them was really quite secondary.
In my case however, the music usually can exist for literally years before I actually put words to it, if ever! Most of you will find that your first inspiration will also come from the notes you play, and when you pick that guitar up each time I believe that it is a “wide open” moment for discovery and inspiration. If I were you, I’d always be sure to have something nearby that can record and take down any or all aspects of a new idea you have come across, no matter how far-fetched you may think it is at the time. I have far too often dismissed licks or song ideas I came across because I didn’t realize the kind of impact they could later have! It’s something that I have many times regretted, and I hope you can heed my words and truly listen to your own “muse” when it hits you.
So, always be on the lookout for new ideas….you never know where they will come from, or when, and sometimes, a simple lick will be the beginning of something truly great. Even recently, these song ideas have come to me as the result of teaching a lesson to a student who might really make me “reach deep” for new ideas….before I know it, I’m asking them to make sure they taped what I played, because it will undoubtedly become a song one day! Hope you find that kind of inspiration one day for yourself!