I’ve always imagined a muse as a sort of animated goblin who’d sit on my shoulder and whisper glorious inspiration into my earhole – which is probably why I’ve never had one. No goddess would wish to be seen as an animated goblin.
Or maybe it’s a man thing, goddesses being female after all and not wanting to raise questions regarding their gender preference. Wordsworth’s inspiration was nature. Coleridge was quite keen on nature as well, particularly one species of poppy.
Lord Byron’s muse was said to be Erato, which makes sense given his wild and hedonistic lifestyle. These days, shrinks would have a field day attributing his bad behaviour to his less-than-ideal parents and the emotional and physical pain caused by his club foot, but society at the time was largely willing to forgive him on the basis of his creative genius, his beauty and his gossip value, so he was probably better off with a muse rather than a psychiatric assessment.
A lot of artists had muses too, it seems, but theirs tended to be goddesses made flesh, which always struck me as a handy way of calling a spade a gardening aid instead of a bloody shovel. But really, who cares? Modern morality has removed the need for this sort of subterfuge (not that it fooled anyone even then), which is lucky for artists. It would be hard to pass off your adoration of your neighbour’s voluptuous wife as muse-value when your talent lay in fish skeletons as art.
The closest I’ve ever come to having a muse is my relationship with the sea. Perhaps the waves are full of chatty goblins.