everytime i pick up my guitar, turn on my amp and start playing it always sounds the same. I think my routine is rooted in muscle-memory in my fingers. most of the time i can't even really "hear" what i'm playing. and obviously for one reason or another I can't seem to play what I'd like to be playing. nor can i break this box i seem to be stuck in.

ugh. maybe i just need to smoke a HUGE left-handed cigarette
I'm kind of in the same boat as you are. Try learning some new scales and branch out to what you listen to music wise.
Fender American Deluxe V-Neck Strat
Laguna LG300CE Acoustic Electric
Perhaps stop trying to sound like other people. Use what you know to start making up your own stuff. Thats what I did when I got to that stage...it was like well im never gonna sound exactly like those guys so lets do my own thing..i dont know..
yes try to find your own sound. and play different styles. follow the lessons from kristofer dahl :P and other lessons on the internet
my reccommendation is turn off the distortion....or maybe in your case turn it on, or learn blues and modes
Listen to something different, learn new scales and techniques. Experiment with the surf guitar.
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Gibson Faded Flying V
Line 6 Sp III 30
Ibanez jumpstart (black)
Ibanez toneblaster (small amp)
Digitech RP80 Guitar Workstation
i tell this to people who have this problem, cause it helped me a lot...

when i first started away from punk songs, i got stuck in this rut. i wanted to play classic rock/blues . I played acdc alot but that was gettin me nowhere. I was startin to think of givin up the guitar...until one day i learned a couple scales, mostly to think i as doing better, and found the pentatonic scale...so i commited hthis one to memory because i knew it would sound good for blues. so one day...i got on this little musical high because i had found a jam along blues/jazz cd that i could improvise too. This helped me get better faster than i could possibly imagine. Within a few days i could pretty much solo over any progression, and was comfortable doing so. I think the improivement came with improvising because it made me actually listen to the notes i was playing, and i started being able to hear blues in the notes i was playing

The moral of the story is:

TAbs wont get you anywhere musically. learn to improvise.
A good way to get better is to find a cd with a solid beat that you can improvise. I used Doors songs. I play "the end" or "LA Woman" and jsut play whatever sounds good. Its a lot of fun and can help you out musically