Finding the spark

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The crisp nights of November are ushered in with chaos.  On Bonfire Night, the sky is choked with smoke and teems with bangs and whistles.  Since they were first invented in ancient China, we’ve used fireworks for our celebrations.  The allure, I think, is something about the shared spectacle of awe.  Something about the suspense of wondering what that bang or whistle will bloom into.  And something about the hint of danger.  Our ancestors must have felt something similar when they discovered fire hundreds of thousands of years ago: this creative force that could protect and nurture but also maim or kill.

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Fire has long been associated with creativity and for good reason.  Creating the spark of an idea from nothing, or from basic raw materials.  Putting in the effort to kindle the spark into something that burns.  Then, controlling that flame until it forges something that is a source of sustenance or beauty.  And, as with the element itself, there is always that potential for danger or unpredictability – it may fizzle to nothing or burn out of control.

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In magic, fire is associated with creativity, purification, passion and transformation.  It is the reminder in the darkness that the sun – and life – will return.  Fire isn’t my element.  I was born under a water sign and I’m much more comfortable in that environment.  But I do love the meditative quality of staring into a fire.  I appreciate the sensuality of it: the bright, mercurial flicker of the flames, the hiss and crackle as it burns, the scent of burning wood or coal.  I love too the comfort of the hearth on a cold night and the formidable crack of lightning across a dark sky.

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So, as the nights become colder and longer, it’s a good time to use fire as a starting point for inspiration.  Quite literally, you might kindle the spark of an idea.  Think not only of the properties of fire itself, but of its broader associations: the sun, the south, the heat of noon, the desert, volcanoes, the heat of passion, the fire in the belly.  Use these associations as the basis for a story or artwork.

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If your creativity in general needs a boost, you could use the aspects of fire to prompt actions that will help you think of your work in new ways.  Consider what you can do to put the passion back into your work.  Think about what needs to be consigned to the flames to purify your practice and start again.  Consider what you can transform in your creative process to make it more productive.

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If you wish, you could perform some very simple fire magic.   Choose a candle of an appropriate colour.  This might be orange for creativity, red for passion, purple for inspiration or black for the destruction of things you want to get rid of.  You can carve the candle with words or symbols to represent your intent, always being very specific about what you want to achieve.  When the candle has burned, perhaps you can use what’s left of it to make an object to remind you of its purpose: use the wax as part of an artwork perhaps, or inscribe a phrase or poem on it.  Once complete, you then need to take some practical steps in the world for the magic to do its work.

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Fire is considered a volatile element, but without it, we wouldn’t have endured.  Creativity too can be chaotic and unpredictable, but our world would be poorer without it.  So the next time you stare into a fire, or see the sky filled with fireworks, remember that you’re celebrating not only the power of fire itself, but of our ability to imagine, to invent and to convert the spark of an idea into something extraordinary.

15 thoughts on “Finding the spark

  1. I’m not sure which of the four ancient elements best describes my own creative process, but I know that it has the spontaneity and unpredictability that you associate with fire in this post. My best song-related ideas have come up when I’ve been doing what I, for most of my life, have considered kind of useless, “vegging out” activities, such as driving and sitting on planes. But it’s in that state of frustrated dormancy that, inexplicably, sparks fly. 🙂

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  2. Whenever I let my mind wander, something amazing stumbles into my brain. Some of the best inspiration ever. It’s funny how things find you when you aren’t looking for them, but elude you when you search for them.

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  3. Maybe water is key to my creativity since many of my story ideas come to me in the shower. Exercising also seems to trigger the ideas. As my husband and I take evening walks (which are now in the dark) and the nights get cooler, we’re noticing the smell of more fires coming from the neighborhood. I’ll try to remember to think about them creatively on the next walk.

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  4. I so much agree on these last comments. Inspiration and creativity just comes to us easy and naturally when we’re in a state of ‘void’, emptiness. That’s why it’s so important to just do nothing for a moment, to let go ..or do something repetitive like so called ordinary mindless house chores (washing dishes, ironing) although not my favorite thing to do, it does often help me in some meditative way to be in a state of ‘mindfulness’ where surprisingly some of my best creative ideas have sprouted 🙂
    ‘Hot’ pictures Andrea!

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