My name is Jesse and I am a Fortune Cookie Writer! Well retired now but Yes that is a job, Yes I made my career out of it and Yes it is as fun as you would have imagined! I have also worked with the famous Donald Lau – the top Fortune Cookie Writer who recently quit due to writer’s block (Yes it IS a thing even in this profession). Anyway, the way I got into this industry and career was mainly to make some income. I was fresh out of college and wanted to be a professional writer (No you don’t need a college degree for this job! Sorry Ma!). I did some freelance gigs here and there but nothing was concrete and more importantly, none of them gave me the joy & satisfaction I was craving. Anyway, one day, while looking through the classifieds for freelance writing gigs, I came across an advert for the now Wonton Foods Inc. for a professional writer who could write inspirational quotes for fortune cookies. More than anything I was just intrigued and called them up to see if this was for real. Lo and behold, it was and I got the job!
After working for a few years with them, I moved to SF and worked in a similar Fortune Cookie company and then moved back to NYC after a few years to take back my older job. Funny story, Fortune cookie is an American/ Western Europe thing (it was not and still is not a thing in China). Legend goes there was a Chinese restaurant owner in NYC and given how impatient New Yorkers are, he hired a priest to write bible verses on small post-its and added them on top of the fortune cookies. He then served these cookies to his customers before dinner to preoccupy them as they waited for their dinner. With some minor alterations (e.g. including the quotes in the cookie, and making the fortune more about everyday life) the fad took off and is now part of the Chinese-American fabric of life! A lot of people don’t appreciate it but writing scribes on fortune cookies is actually a tough task. Think about it, you don’t know what emotions and stage of life the reader is and so you want to make sure you don’t offend or hurt anyone at the same time say something uplifting that would give them hope and make their day. To add on that, these fortunes cookies are sent all across the western hemisphere which further makes the task more nuanced and something you have to take very seriously. Anyway, enough about the philosophical side of fortune cookie inscriptions, the below is a breakdown of my ‘Day in the Life’ when I used to be a Fortune Cookie Writer. Hope you all enjoy it!
7 AM: Wake up, shower and Meditate! I have realized that to be inspired to write thoughtful fortunes, I need to be zen and have a great peace of mind which comes only through meditation.
8:30 AM: The greatest positive (and maybe the negative) of my job was that since I was a freelance writer, I didn’t have an office and could write from anywhere. Most of the times this was good since it gave me the freedom to operate from anywhere I wanted to but when you have that writer’s block, man you just want to be around similar people to bounce off ideas. Anyway, I would head to the local library (going to coffee shops to work was not a thing during my days) and sit and read through some of the ancient literature to get my inspiration. The goal was to crunch out at least 4-5 fortunes/day. On days when I was lazy and didn’t have enough inspiration, I would look to horoscopes to get inspired. I know I know it’s the easy way out but honestly its tough coming through inspirational, non-offensive fortunes that would also make the person feel good. But I promise that would be very rare – once in a very very rare blue moon! Anyway, other than scribing fortunes, I would also work on other freelance writing gigs. This transition was the hardest since I had to switch from writing thoughtful one-liners (shorter than a Tweet if I must say) to much longer writing. This is why I would make sure to focus on the Fortune writing first and then on the longer writing assignments.
5 PM: Most days I would be done with my fortune writing for the day and head back home. Finish up some chores and head out for a run. I lived in Brooklyn at the time (I now live in Queens) and so running outdoors was pretty refreshing and not filled with tourists as it is now. On days I didn’t run, I would meet up with friends OR head out to the nearest writers conference to keep my networks active and continue being in the loop. No there weren’t any Cookie Conventions as there are now!
8 PM: Head home, freshen up and begin making dinner. Nothing crazy but definitely therapeutic as focusing on the mundane helped me in clearing my mind
9 PM: Eat dinner while watching tv and do some light reading of my favorite fiction
10 PM: Good night!