Writing Shards is like skipping rope with someone else turning the rope, two little girls with pigtails at either end; you do that same repetitious slight leaning in and back out again with your arms positioned as if you’re running, bent slightly at the waist, one leg a little forward, and then you jump in and twist as you do, so that you’re no longer facing the rope but parallel to it, skipping over the arc of it as it comes around and whisks against the pavement or the dirt or the grass.
The girls in pigtails alter the rope’s speed to try to trip you up, impossibly fast one minute, then so slow the rope goes slack and ripples. If you don’t know what skipping rope is, there’s no sense in reading further.
Of course these symptoms could also apply to writing an ordinary poem, but in a Shard the rope is barbwire with writhing coral snakes impaled on the barbs, making it necessary not just to clear the rope when it comes around but to clear the coral snakes.
And in a true Shard (and I confess that I’ve become lax lately in what I call a Shard) the girls in pigtails don’t just raise the rope now and then so that the low part of its arc is a foot off the ground, making it necessary to jump instead of skip, in a true Shard the girls in pigtails levitate so far into the air that you are forced to levitate too, and there is no longer any difference between the high arc and the low arc of the rope. It doesn’t matter if you levitate above the rope or below it, you still have to skip when it comes around, and in a true Shard the girls in pigtails will suddenly pull the rope taut, forcing you back into the posture you assumed back on the ground before you jumped in, except now you’re forced to hold this posture thirty feet up in the air. There’s more to it of course, but there’s only so much you can tell people before they stop believing you.
The main thing to keep in mind is that once you turn sideways and jump in, you can no longer see one of the little girls in pigtails, and it is crucial that you keep believing that she’s really there.