This dawned on me today as I was thinking about how I want to organize some of my new guitar practice, and what I'm trying to get as practical takeaway from reading up on some theory.
I had instruction on several instruments for many years - particularly saxophone, and then trumpet. During that time I was learning to be a musician in the sense of being an expert in using an instrument as a tool for delivering music, rather than learning how to create and deliver music while learning an instrument. There's a big distinction in my mind. Not a knock on my instructors by any means - they were very good and I often wound up being principal chair (at school anyway).
What was my end goal while practicing as a trumpet player? To play a piece flawlessly I suppose. Hit all the notes with the right timing, the right attack, the right intensity and duration... and to perfectly express someone else's phrasing and ideas. Like if I were to get up on a podium and deliver the Gettysburg Address with the same gravity and inflection as Lincoln.
What I'm really after now is to be able to come up with and express my own ideas. Until now I've been speaking words and phrases without grasping their meaning or gravity or resolution. I'll have some work to do to get to that level!