Personally, I differentiate elemental magic from telekinesis. If you can move a rock with your mind, then you should be able to move fire. The mental blocks from "my element" is a little too X-Men. (Pyro can't heat up the air to create fire, Iceman can't manipulate liquid water... it's good for the plot, but kind of silly to copy when your mental discipline alone has more potential.)
That said, I've also found that telekinesis is a good exercise for understanding the matter, and understanding the matter can help you understand the whole element and not just the physical aspect... so, like they said, practice practice practice your mind. Meditate on the matter, but also try thinking like a sylph-- perceiving the world like an undine.
For example, in chapter three of Bardon's Initiation into Hermetics, you practice imagining the elements of fire, water, air, or earth around yourself as if you are immersed within a boundless sphere of a single element. Take the earth element. What is it to imagine you have within and around yourself a vast expanse of the earth element? This is the same as learning to think, feel, and perceive as a gnome.
Your mind attunes to that one element learning to amplify, condense, and transform it. After this training, it is not so difficult then to form connections and interact in a creative manner with gnomes. If you spent time concentrating on minerals, precious stones, trees, mountains, and so forth you would be undergoing the training of a gnome magician.
Actually, the last two paragraphs are directly from William Mistele-- who has a lot of good info on undines if you want to google him. Once you form connections and interact creatively with undines and sylphs (conjuring,) you can have a much deeper grasp of what elements are capable of, and how to work in harmony with them (manipulation) (or, well, "active skills" sound nicer :-P) because you'll realize the "elemental" balance within yourself.
And then you can get a patron if you'd have each other. Currently mine's Neptune, but elemental magicians seem to work a lot with kings or rulers of the quarters-- Nichsa for water and Paralda for air, if I remember correctly. Hope this helps.