Donald Lau, a VP at Long Island City's Wonton Food, Inc. is one of the world's leading fortune-cookie fortune authors. He has writer's block for the past ten years and recycles old fortunes these days. The New Yorker investigate him after a random number on the back of one of his fortunes rang the cherries on the Powerball lotto ("110 people... came forward to claim prizes... officials suspected a scam until they traced the sequence to a fortune"):
At first, the writing came easily. Finding inspiration in sources ranging from the I Ching to the Post, Lau cranked out three or four maxims a day, between scrutinizing spreadsheets and monitoring the company's inventory of chow mein. "I'd be on the subway and look up at the signs and think, Hey, that would make a great fortune," he said. (One such adage: "Beware of odors from unfamiliar sources.") "I'd keep a small notebook and jot down whatever came to me. I don't think I ever sat in front of the computer and said, 'I am going to write ten fortunes right now.' It has to come naturally."
Love, riches, power: there is a limited range of experience that can be expressed in one sentence, and, about eleven years into his tenure, Lau began to run out of ideas. He leaned increasingly on traditional Chinese sayings, which offer insight (along the lines of "True gold fears no fire") but not foresight ("Your income will increase"), and in 1995 he gave up altogether. "I've written thousands of fortunes, but the inspiration is gone," Lau said. "Have you heard of writer's block? That is what happened to me."
(via Memex 1.1)
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