Frequently Unanswered Questions (FUQs)
Coming alive as writers by asking (and living) more beautiful questions
A few weeks back,, , and I were sitting in Dan’s sunroom in Brooklyn, with dozens of sticky notes plastered on the walls around us. We were talking about The Book of Foster’s FAQ section, when the idea hit us.
What if we openly shared the questions we don’t have the answers to?
Pretty much every company has an FAQ, usually comprised of boring, logistical questions and answers that rarely tell you anything about the essence of a company or the humans behind it. But the sticky notes on our wall that day were peppered with bigger, juicier questions that would never be at home in an FAQ.
What role does writing play in the process of individuation, and how can we use our writing practices to become more fully ourselves? How can we walk the line between being fully expressed as individuals, while simultaneously being part of a well-oiled collective? How can we cultivate new myths that guide humanity gracefully through its many interrelated crises? Where on earth do eels come from??
These are the types of questions at the beating heart of Foster—the ones that animate us to get out of bed in the morning, yet are too big, unwieldy, and philosophical to have any definitive answers in the near future. What if we put those questions front and center in our writing, our marketing, and even wove them into the cohort experiences we lead?
At that moment, it just felt so right. So enlivening. All three of us started laughing hysterically—often a sign that something magical is happening. Just like that, the idea of Frequently Unanswered Questions, or FUQs, took root. And yes, it’s pronounced “fux” in case you were wondering.
Our hunch is that FUQs can unlock so much of what we want from our writing and from our lives more broadly.
Powerful questions give us a sense of directionality. We may not know the exact destination or answer, but we can feel when a question is pulling us in a direction that’s meaningful and alive. The right question can act as a compass in our writing and lives. It can point us towards our true north, and keep us on the path to becoming more fully ourselves.
At the same time, FUQs can help break us out of the perfectionist patterns many of us picked up in school. When “getting the right answer” isn’t even an option, it relieves the pressure to make something perfect. The only winning move when confronted with a FUQ is open-hearted exploration, and reporting what you discover along the way.
FUQs are fascinating to write about on their own, because they open up vast territory for intellectual exploration. But when we’re courageous enough to live a FUQ—allowing the question to guide us into new decisions we wouldn’t ordinarily make—that’s where the real magic happens. FUQs can spark our agency and fill our lives with wonder. They can break us out of our default stories, and open up new possibilities for how to be the author of our own existence.
Writing from your lived experience of a FUQ results in writing that is unmistakably human, and differentiated by default. In a world overwhelmed by generic content full of easy answers, exploring FUQs helps you stand out, and makes you virtually impossible to compete with. Anyone can copy your questions, but your personal experience of living a question will always belong to you and you alone. That’s one type of data AIs will never be trained on.
Writing that explores big questions, without pigeonholing itself into easy answers, is often more engaging and memorable. It’s the kind of writing that sticks with readers for months or years, and that has staying power in the culture. But it goes deeper than that. Writing from a FUQ invites the reader into a dance with you. They get to experience the question too, and perhaps it sparks something for them, sending them on their own journey of exploration. Writing from FUQs is a gift that can enchant your reader’s lives just as much as it’s enchanted yours.
Lastly, FUQs attract allies and spark new connections. When you broadcast the questions that matter to you, you become a magnet for people who are thinking about and living the same questions. Unlike answers, which often close down conversation and connection, being open with our questions opens the door to vibrant conversations, and new relationships that enrich our lives.
But look, here’s the truth. We’ve only just cracked open the FUQ door ourselves, and there’s a vast world of possibility laying behind it we have yet to explore. That’s a big part of how we intend to use this Substack, and make it feel vibrantly alive. Not to pretend like we have any definitive answers, but to keep a lively conversation going about our FUQs, while leaving behind a trail of learnings for anyone else who wants to walk the path alongside us.
So our invitation for you, dear Foster friends, is to start thinking about the big, juicy questions that underlie your writing, and perhaps even your life. What are you magnetically curious about that you could write about for years, or decades to come? (Besides eels, of course, because we’ve already claimed that FUQ.)
If the idea of FUQs resonates with you, we’d like to cordially invite you to join us for Season 4: A More Beautiful Question. Over four weeks of facilitation, workshops, and coaching, we will each discover the questions that resonate at our core, and begin to inhabit them. We’ll explore our FUQs together, and use them as fuel to produce the liveliest writing of our lives. The cohort begins October 16th. Hope to see you there.