I love the imagery that is stirred up by the idea of a muse as an inspiration for creation. Painter, thinker, sculptor, dancer, musician, writer. All looked beyond themselves for the seeds of creation and creativity. In ancient mythology, the muses that presided over the arts were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne of the Greek pantheon. They were responsible for providing inspiration to mortals to create their master works. Even today I talk about finding my muse whenever I am blessed with a burst of creative thought or energy. Likewise I can, from time to time, recognize when I am empty inside, devoid of passion, insight, or ideas, as having lost my muse.
Perhaps a more common expression that you might hear is "writer's block". The image of an author sitting down at the keyboard, spirit willing, but the words, images, and ideas just don't form in their mind. I certainly have experienced this condition at several points in my life. It seems to emerge after an extensive and extended period of work when my mind is burned out. In some, it can also be associated with depression and deep sadness, although these feelings seem to inspire me to write and express and yell out for release and healing and cleansing. However, writer's block also has its associated parallels in every other form of artistry and creation. The painter stares helplessly at a blank canvas, the thinker is lost but not in thought, the sculptor can only see his lump of clay as a lump of clay, the dancer is frozen in place, the musician can't find his rhythm.
The more regular, momentary losses of my muse or my spark for thinking can typically be "cured" by getting out of the office for an afternoon or a weekend. However, there are times when my dullness of spirit hangs around me like a thick fog. Sometimes it can last for weeks or months. It is during these times when I feel most vulnerable, most worthless. Am I just going through the motions? What if I am done? What if I have really lost my passion for what I have sought after for my whole life? Doubt, anxiety, and darkness linger and settle in my mind and I am further sapped of vitality and will.
It's funny how quickly the clouds can break after periods of drought. Sometimes all it takes is that unexpected phone call, a seemingly innocent question, or an off-hand comment and the engine goes from off to full red-line in the snap of a finger. For me, a key way to gauge the presence of my muse is in how quickly the work day goes by. If I am slogging my way through without inspiration, I seem to notice every passing moment. If I am engaged and in-tune, no sooner do I sit in my chair in the morning than I realize that the day is over.