fortune cookie n. A cookie made from a thin layer of dough folded and baked around a slip of paper bearing a prediction of fortune or a maxim.  Definition courtesy of The Free Dictionary and The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company .

What do fortune cookies have to do with writing one might ask?  Hang with me a moment and you’ll see the connection.

It’s all about inspiration.  Inspiration is individual.  What inspires one person might not trigger the same inspirational response in another.  I look to many of the usual places for inspiration – magazine and newspaper articles, books, music, television, observing people and nature. 

Another place I look for inspiration is… fortune cookies.  Yes fortune cookies. 

I collect them in a special envelope and when I need a good proverb or am looking for a theme I’d like to convey, I consult my fortune cookie proverbs first.

IMAG0202 (My growing pile of proverbs)

It’s fun hunting through them for something that ‘speaks’ to me.  Almost like a treasure hunt. 

I’ve learned that your novel needs a theme. Not necessarily to be beaten over the readers head, but rather subtly imbued throughout the book.  Here are a couple good ones for patience: 

  • Patience is easy to wish for and difficult to achieve.
  • Patience gives the power to practice; practice gives the power that leads to perfection.

Can’t you just see a character who needs to learn about patience and how you could use one of those maxims as a theme? 

Of course it’s always fun to use some as your personal mantra.  Here is one I got today that I’ll use to inspire my writing life… 

Use your abilities at this time to stay focused on your goal.  You will succeed.