Discover more from Here we are
On fire & creative energy
controlled or wild
I often suggest to coaching clients that they come up with a writing ritual.
This could be making a warm mug of tea, lighting a candle, or engaging in a short meditation practice before sitting down to write. It helps to set the stage for creative activity, especially for those of us with hectic lives or a lot of distractions.
All that to say, I never attached much symbolism to the candle I ritually light before my own writing practice beyond the idea of it being this transition or reorientation around my cherished work. Recently, I started to consider why I light a candle instead of something else, and why I generally remember to light it before drafting, rarely when revising.
This sent me down a rabbit hole . . .
Our human ability to control fire offers us the promise of light, warmth, and security on demand. We are able to survive due to our ability to understand the patterns of fire and manipulate it. We learned how to scour land in the aftermath of wildfires and how to make heat in the depths of cold nights.
In short, fire sustains. It is also the perfect metaphor for creative pursuits, which is reflected in global mythology.
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Brigid, the Celtic goddess of the flame, illuminates creative pursuits while also representing the warrior and art of Smithcraft. Agni, a Sanskrit word for fire, is also the name of the Hindu god of fire who brings life and prosperity. Ra, the Egyptian god of fire, is said to have so much command over fire that he can become the sun itself. The symbolism across cultures is similar.
Ohio caught a few hazy days from the Canadian wildfires that raged over the summer. Two days in particular, I remember grabbing my mask due to the poor air quality alerts, and it made me think about the other side of fire—the wild and unrestrained nature of the element.
To think about our own lives and the fiery moments, we often think of those times that carried great emotion or in which stakes were high and outcomes were unpredictable. Fire can be used as a metaphor for motivation, but it can also become an obsession. What was once contained and safe can sometimes catch and turn into all-out chaos.
And what a joy when this happens creatively.
A candle is a contained flame, largely innocuous to indulging its inherent wild ways, and in this sense, it is only a start. As I create, I try to let go, allow the natural spread and expansion, the fast-moving and unpredictable reach. It doesn’t always go well, but it always grows.
I’m writing essays about my personal life right now, which is particularly challenging. This is an important body of work (to me) and one that can’t be replicated. The emotional resonance feels like a fire, and I’m in that unrestrained place where I feel totally out of control.
While I’d like to think I could imagine myself balancing with a clear water-like flow, the fire is where I’m at. Perhaps if we think of the elements as stages of the creative process, it can offer some consolation.
I’m generating (fire), but I do look forward to that time of transition when I can return to the coolness and flow of revision, of tinkering with words and moving sentences like pebbles to clear a path toward meaning.
I might write more about flow next week. In the meantime . . . What would it be if you were to assign an element to your current creative state? The groundedness of earth, the flow of water, the (sometimes wild) momentum of fire, or the airiness of thought?