In some of my earlier columns I talk about avoiding ruts and inspiring your playing by learning other peoples licks, solos, songs, etc. I do feel that this is very important to building your vocabulary.
The next step is to "internalize" what you are learning and use it to help develop your own style. Remember this is going to be an ongoing process. Let's say that you have been practicing a solo by one of your favorite players and you know it pretty well, the next thing to do is improvise for a while and try to use parts of the ideas that you have worked on. After a while this will become second nature and you can combine bits and pieces from alot of different sources. Your playing will become a mixture of some of your favorite players.
Don't be afraid of making mistakes, because mistakes are part of learning and sometimes they lead to some cool stuff. When Eddie Van Halen was still playing in cover bands he felt bad that he never could sound exactly like the songs he was playing. Look how that worked out.
Spend the last 20 minutes or so everyday improvising, play over backing tracks, play to records, jam over nothing, just do it at the end of every practice session and you will develop your own voice and be able to think on your toes much better.
Mike O'Malley's instrumental power trio is called No Walls and their latest CD is entitled "World Abroad". He has been playing guitar for almost 30 years and graduated from Music Tech in Minneapolis in 1988.
O'Malley currently has 45 guitar students that range in all ability levels and styles.