If you are really wanting to learn magic, you first need to learn about magic. Lark suggests some really good books to get started in that direction. One of the four I can recommend, as I have not read the other three. It is Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig.
Magic is not literally about manipulating the physical elements. The elements, rather, are symbolic -- and quite deeply symbolic at that, depending on which tradition. They represent many different things. There is a word (or at least concept) you will encounter a lot in your studies: correspondences. It's basically a set of representations.
But don't be discouraged! Although you may have taken a slight misstep, you're showing some good qualities: creativity and observation are two very important qualities to put to use in the practice of magic.
My own suggestion is that magic is best first used to improve one's self before trying anything external to yourself. Magic, being change in accordance with will, is very well expressed through self-improvement and growth on a mental and [as beliefs differ] spiritual level.
Many believe magic can and does influence the world around them. But it is a lot more than reciting words. It is the manipulation and direction of intent and energy.
If I have some advice to give, I have a list for you:
1. Begin daily meditation practice. Pick some type of meditation and start daily. Simply sitting quietly and focusing on one thing is a spectacular thing to begin. It trains your mind to focus.
2. Read some articles on SoM here about visualization. A very active, deliberate, and vivid imagination are a great tool.
3. Read about energy manipulation.
4. Choose at least two sources for beginners to read about magic, and begin a regular practice. The book I mentioned above is a great resource, and introduces the reader to many aspects of ritual magic. There are plenty of other great resources as well.
When you start out, you will most likely begin learning to focus, learning to put yourself into the right mindset, and learning some basic rituals according to whichever method you choose to follow. These basic practices will take time, and regular (daily if at all possible!) repetition.
But you will find yourself better educated about what direction you wish to take from there.