As an apostate classical,(narrownecked, nylonstrung guitar with my legs crossed), ragtime and general fingerpickin' guitarist for the past 35 years (yikes!) I got used to using thumb and up to three fingers picking from the start. Once I got the rhythm of alternating bass and syncopated picking, I almost couldn't not pick that way. People got fed up with me syncopating everything. I figured out a credible version of Cincinnati Flow Rag from the Rev. Gary Davis recording, it's simplified and it keeps growing as I figure out how to do some of the stuff Davis does and then try to work that in to what I can do; his rag flows into mine...
I had a hiatus of about 10 years where I virtually didn't touch my guitar (carpal tunnel syndrome, 2 kids, new job etc) but found to my astonishment that after 10 years I could still whack out basic ragtime guitar.
Micca, for me it was simple, although a rank amateur and pretty much nonperformer, there were still a number of years where I simply could not exist without my guitar at arm's reach - I think it was more therapeutic than musical tho', thankfully I was never tempted to go on stage with "diary and Iwannagetlaid songs", but singing and playing them for myself for about 10 years certainly improved my picking! But I know what you mean, I've been listening to Leadbelly recordings since I was 14, I know I'll never come close to some of his guitar playing.
I always had the feeling that Grossman just didn't get inside what he was playing so to speak, in concert I kept my eyes on his hands, the songs never got to me as songs.