Martin Heidegger came up with a radical notion that has enabled a whole new way of seeing ourselves and the world. This notion has since gained wider acceptance, and is especially prevalent in European contemporary philosophy. The notion is this: that language speaks us rather than we speak language. Or that we are constructed by the language. As Heidegger put it, if we listen we hear the language before and as we speak it–the words come naturally to us and shape what is important in the world.
Language can also help us to uncover, to unveil, to reveal the truth. Thus words, through speaking or writing, can help us to see the truth. Words can show us what is there.
The above ideas might not seem so strange to those of us who have tried creative writing. Just as the sculptor chips away at the marble to reveal the figure that was waiting to be revealed, writers have often commented how their stories unfold despite the writer. The writer’s worst-kept secret is that they didn’t write stories; the stories write themselves.
A Stephen King described in his book On Writing, the writer is like the palaeontologist who brushes the dust off to reveal the fossil (writing–the story–the creation–the work of art), perfectly formed underneath (that was always there).