"They are all of one mind, their hearts are set upon song, and their spirit is free from care.
He (she) is happy whom the Muses love. For though man (woman) has sorrow and grief in his soul, when the Muses sing, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses." Hesiod
Once upon a time it was a universal belief that creativity in the areas of art, poetry, philosophy, music, dancing, writing, science, and history was inspired by the goddesses known as the Muses. Greek mythology originally referred to three goddesses born to Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, but very early on the number was increased to nine. Legends vary, as legends always do, but the existence of the Muses was part of oral history for centuries before the Greeks indelibly immortalized them in poetry and written myths. According to the prevailing legends, the muses were brought to life to make the world disremember the evil, relieve the sorrows, and to praise the gods. Apollo was the main teacher of the Muses and they accompanied him, along with the Graces, strolling through the gardens of Olympus singing and dancing while Apollo played the harp. Among the great poets of the day, most notably Homer, Hesiod, Plutarch, and others that I have never heard of, the Muses were the source of all knowledge. As you can see by my title, “muse” forms the etymological root of many words related to knowledge and art. The nine Muses were the embodiment of art, the creators of music (literally "the art of the Muse"), the inspiration of grace in song and dance.
Yet they were mystical and mysterious. Artists attempted to depict them and eventually gave them names - Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania - and even singled out their particular artistic gifting. Yet for the most part it was enough to believe they were, as Solon said, "the key to the good life" and as such they were worshipped as the divine bestowers of all that is beautiful.
Over time the belief in actual goddesses was replaced with flesh and blood women as inspiration. Think Picasso! For other artists it was the idea that creativity sprang from within or was miraculously birthed by something seen around us or perhaps from a different divine origin. Some don't like to give credit to anything or anyone and laugh at the idea of a muse. But most of us who feel the strange urgings of creativity can't deny that there is something magical about it.
I know that magical is how I feel about it. Frequently I am asked where my ideas come from. Sometimes I can point definitively to an essay I read or a tidbit I stumbled across in my research that sparked an idea. Yet even in those instances I have to write the sentences and paragraphs in such a way that it is entertaining and drives the story. I still am not sure how I do that half the time! And all too frequently I suspect I could commiserate with the schizophrenic who hears voices or carries on conversations with invisible people!