Monday October 09, 2017

How Rupi Kaur pushed through writer's block to create her second collection of poems

Rupi Kaur's poetry collection The Sun and Her Flowers is the follow-up to her bestseller milk and honey.

Rupi Kaur's poetry collection The Sun and Her Flowers is the follow-up to her bestseller milk and honey. (Simon & Schuster)

Listen 16:15

Rupi Kaur is an author and illustrator who grew up in Brampton, a city northwest of Toronto. She began drawing at the age of five, taking up writing in junior high. When she self-published her debut book of poetry, milk and honey, it was such a hit that publishers took notice. The collection went on to sell two million copies and was translated into over 30 languages. 

Her second book, the sun and her flowers, is divided into five chapters and features her illustrations. It explores healing, growth and love. 

Following up milk and honey

"After I signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for book two and book three, I thought how am I possibly going to create something that is going to do everything that milk and honey did? milk and honey sold two million copies. It was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over 73 weeks. That debilitated me for so long because I had nothing to begin with. I just have this empty page in front of me and now I have to create something that is going to do all of that and then some. For months and months and months I couldn't write. I would write down a sentence and get so angry at myself because I'd think it was complete garbage. I'd rip it up. You know that typical writer thing everybody thinks we do, well that happened for quite a while. Then I thought this isn't working and if I keep working like this, I'm not going to get anywhere. I really had to switch around how I was thinking about the second book. I stopped framing it as I have to write a book. I framed it as today I have to wake up, show up at my desk and write. If it's a good day, I might end up with something that looks like a poem. If not, at least it's a therapeutic experience. That's what I did for months and then we came to this book."

Structuring her book after the life cycle of a flower

"Usually I don't think about organizing my book until everything is done and written. After I have everything, I  print out the final manuscript and it will be hundreds of poems. I lay them out on the floor and I begin to group them into themes and sections. The reason I start at wilting versus blooming is that I always try to get through the tough stuff first. I show readers that after sorrow there is always joy. I like to leave them on a high note, feeling happy and empowered."

What comes next

"My number one goal is making sure that I have the space to creatively grow and express myself all the time. How can I put that goal first?"

Listen to Rupi Kaur read her poem "Advice I Would Have Given My Mother on Her Wedding Day" below. 

Rupi Kaur's comments have been edited and condensed.