Diana Rowan

Diana Rowan

an excerpt from
The Bright Way

The Alchemy of Creativity: Essential Elements Correspondences

Inspiration, artistry, learning, technique, and community.

Posted 5/10/20


During each step in part 2 (Step into the Bright Way) we'll focus on one essential element intently. To give you a flavor of each element, I offer these brief examples.

Inspiration = Fire 🜂

Inspiration is the creative spark. It is the initiator and the originator of our creative acts. Similarly, the element of fire embodies passion, drive, and the very dawning of civilization. Fire is powerful, yet it also needs to be tended, both for its own survival and so that it can assist us rather than burn us down. Fire lights our way, warming us with hope and energy. It scorches away the unnecessary.

Here are some examples of inspiration to light your fire of creativity:

  • listening to music/going to a concert
  • walking in nature/moving via dancing
  • reading
  • looking at beautiful things
  • taking a break

On your Bright Way diagram [use your journal for this], trace the alchemical symbol for fire (🜂) with your finger. Notice how it points upward, just as flames leap up. Feel its energy and notice what sensations, memories, and desires it ignites in you.

Artistry = Water 🜄

Artistry takes many forms. Water reflects artistry by flowing through many states, from steam to ice to oceans to clouds. Artistry encompasses the myriad ways we express ourselves. Just as our emotions morph from states of calm to storm, ecstasy to agony, water also shape-shifts. We evolved from water and are largely made up of water. Water is home to our deepest intuition and consciousness. Water is unstoppable, and in many ways, so are our emotions and desires. Water reflects the very polarity of life and death, as does true artistry.

Artistry includes anything that helps you express your vision with emotion. This means knowing what you really want to say and how you want to say it.

Examples of artistry to help your creativity flow are:

  • developing your own style by noticing what you love and following that
  • cultivating beginner's mind
  • developing practices of deep listening and presence
  • encouraging flow by tapping into what you love and giving yourself just the right amount of challenge

Again, we'll be exploring specific ways to cultivate all these ideas; this section is just a brief preview.

On your Bright Way diagram, trace the alchemical symbol for water (🜄) with your finger. Notice how it points downward, just as water flows down in rivers, waterfalls, and sheets of rain. Feel its energy and notice what sensations, memories, and desires flow through you.

Learning = Air 🜁

Learning means clearly perceiving new material and integrating it into your practice so that it can be recalled and developed. The corresponding element of air supports learning by blowing away cobwebs and bringing a breath of fresh air in the form of new energy, insight, and space. There's nothing like learning to clear and expand your mind, is there? Air clears, from the tiniest detail to the mightiest blocks, so that we are refreshed and available for growth.

Examples of learning for clarifying your creativity are:

  • researching how the brain actually learns and then applying those principles
  • identifying your unique learning style and capitalizing on it
  • adopting a growth mindset in which you believe progress is always possible
  • letting go of old habits, experiences, and beliefs that hold you back

On your Bright Way diagram, trace the alchemical symbol for air (🜁) with your finger. Notice how it points upward yet has a line crossing it. This symbolizes air's urge to rise and also the fact that air is contained within the atmosphere. Feel its energy and notice what freedoms you want to let fly inside you.

Technique = Earth 🜃

Technique transmutes all previous elements into reality. By technique, I mean the physical act of doing something as well as the craft and skill sides of creativity. Think of how technique applies to gymnastics or to the craft of pottery or writing a novel. Technique is all about giving things physical shape and structure. Likewise, earth embodies technique by literally grounding and allowing inspiration, artistry, and learning to manifest on the material plane. Earth is our refuge, our rock, the fundamental touchstone we build on. Further, earth expresses itself in ecosystems, mirroring how technique functions in practical, sustainable layers that form an ever-renewing cycle.

Examples of technique for giving your creativity physical form are:

  • understanding the nuts-and-bolts skill requirements for furthering your creativity (i.e., mastering gardening practices, learning new communication skills, implementing narrative arc in writing and music)
  • retaining an expert instructor in your field for feedback and information
  • taking care of your body so that you can manifest your skills with grace
  • gathering the best tools of your trade that you can find

On your Bright Way diagram, trace the alchemical symbol for earth (🜃) with your finger. Notice how it points downward yet has a line crossing it. This symbolizes earth's tendency to descend but also the fact that the molten core of the planet pushes it back up. Feel its energy, and notice how the fire of your desires helps keep you from getting stuck in the mud.

Community = Spirit O

Community is an often unsung yet crucial element of creativity. In my work with creatives over the years, the most surprising revelation to me is how crucial community is. We are social creatures, and without community, our creativity dwindles. Ultimately, community and spirit allow us to encounter Sacred Reciprocity most clearly and to practice and live this philosophy out loud.

What does community actually look like? Your community could be big, small, in person, online, focused on your art, or connected to a completely different part of your life. It could be your family, your chosen family, your local coffee shop, your town, your culture, your heritage, your understanding of how you interconnect as a living being on a living planet. The list is endless, but the feeling of community is clear, even though you can't see it.

Similarly, spirit isn't visible, yet it is often our strongest drive of all when we step back and review our creative arc. Spirit enlivens and supports all the other elements, while having a power of its own. Cultivating our community and our spirit ultimately infuses our creative journey with the mystery of life force itself, from that initial urge, to manifestation, and back again. This is the soul of your creativity!

Examples of community for lending spirit to your creativity are:

  • forming a writing group/knitting circle/band
  • finding an accountability partner
  • working with animals and other living beings, such as plants
  • listening to someone deeply
  • communing with nature

On your Bright Way diagram, trace the alchemical symbol for spirit (O) with your finger. Notice that there is no beginning and no end, symbolizing that creativity is a journey, not a destination. Feel this sense of wholeness when all elements are brought together and infused with spirit.

How Cycles Naturally Power Creativity

Nature provides us with the model for abundant creativity. Rather than accepting the mechanical pace common in our culture since the Industrial Revolution, we return to nature and emulate her wisdom.

In the natural world, night turns to day, and the year wheels through the seasons. Creativity likewise thrives in cyclical patterns. By connecting your creativity to cycles, you access new levels of energy. This contrasts with the exhausting plod from goal to goal, in which we lose sight of both the big picture and the connecting energy between our actions.

You've already encountered Bright Way Activities as allies on our journey, gently prompting you into action and greater connection with yourself. You'll soon encounter Bright Way Breaks. These invite you to pause and recharge. Activities and breaks model the action-receptivity cycle, giving you the chance to practice this dynamic.

Here I'd like to note that Bright Way Breaks are not passive, just as receptivity isn't lifelessly passive. Breaks involve active engagement because you choose and participate in them. A lot happens when you recharge your battery.

If you get stuck, frustrated, or tired — all signs you're growing by sloughing off old ways of being — taking a break can jolt you out of a rut and keep your tank topped off. Overwhelm is often fear in disguise. Reroute fear by changing states. Taking deliberate breaks is a reliable way to steward your sanity, so let's practice this now.

Excerpted from the book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within. Copyright © 2020 by Diana Rowan. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

The Bright Way: Freeing the Creative Within

The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within

Diana Rowan is the author of The Bright Way. She is a professional harpist with an MM in classical piano performance and a PhD in music theory. more

Creativity is Connection

When you create, you connect.

Sacred Reciprocity

Fostering a spirit of collaboration, not competition.

Essential Elements

The alchemy of creativity.

Fulfillment and Creative Process

Joy and resilience in Sacred Reciprocity.

Community & Connection

Connection is essential to creativity.