You Can Always Change Your Situation. Here’s How …


Jen Adams

The most popular toy of the 1960s … was actually inspired by an electrician tinkering around at work.

Jen Adams here, taking you through a gift-filled week in The Writer’s Life. Each item was a “must-have” in its day … but more importantly, each one symbolizes a specific gift the writer’s life brings.

For today, it’s the gift of a fresh start — as many times as you’d like.

This is something I’ve deeply enjoyed as a feature in my writing life, moving as I have between countries, between niches, and between companies. As my life and interests have changed, I’ve been able to shake things up and start over, quickly and easily.

For André Cassagnes, restarts weren’t so simple. He’d been brought up to work in the French bakery owned by his parents, but it’s tough to be successful as a baker when you’re allergic to flour.

Instead, the baker found himself working as an electrician for a company that made picture frames. The firm used aluminum powder to coat their frames, and one day while working, Cassagnes noticed that the electrical charges he worked with reacted with his pencil sketches and the powder to transfer his designs to new surfaces.

Intrigued, he started tinkering with the reactions. Eventually, he created a flat, framed surface that you could draw on, seemingly from the inside out. The pattern would hold until shaken, and then the screen could be reused.

Cassagnes took his design to the 1959 Nuremberg International Toy Fair, successfully selling it to the Ohio Art Company for $25,000. They altered the design a touch, moving the controls from joysticks to knobs, and changed the name from “L'Ecran Magique” (Magic Screen) to the more familiar “Etch-A-Sketch.”

The toy officially made its debut July 12, 1960, for $2.99 … and went on to sell 600,00 units that year. Sometimes called “the original laptop,” Etch-A-Sketch continues to move millions of units each year, and in 1998, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, which honors the most innovative and iconic toys in the US.

Cassagnes? He’s famous, too, especially in his native France, but not for the Etch-A-Sketch. Another set of restarts and do-overs moved him out of toy making and into kite making, where his uniquely patterned designs earned him a loyal following.

It’s another twist in his story I love — and another reminder that for true creative souls, you always have the option to pick up your life, give it a good shake, and start over. Perhaps not quite as simply as you clear an Etch-A-Sketch, but close!

I’m doing it now, in fact, as I adjust to having my first child here with me while I write. And you may be in the middle of a big change or re-start in your life, too. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Then, tomorrow, I’ll share how a toy that often fits in the palm of your hand gives writers like us unlimited potential (even though no, you can’t write with these!)

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Published: December 23, 2015

16 Responses to “You Can Always Change Your Situation. Here’s How …”

  1. LOVE this idea because I've lived it.

    Just in the past 10 years I've completely re-invented myself and made a fresh start 3 times.

    2006 - Fresh start as owner of a handyman business.
    2008 - Fresh start as full-time copywriter.
    2015 - Fresh start as full-time personal coach and founder of Rise Up Champion personal development company.

    In each of these I started at zero and quickly moved to the top 5% of the profession.

    What is the common secret?

    COMMITTMENT.

    Sean McCoolDecember 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

  2. Jen, I have REALLY enjiyed reading what you have been writing this past week. The examples are real, and they contain bits and nuggets that I can use. I am trying to decide if this is something I can sink my teeth into...I am losing my jib soon, and I am looking far something to get my family through and beyond. Thank you for your unsights and the great historical references. Hope to be writing myself soon. Also, congratulations on the little one. I have three myself, and I can vouch that they can change your life. Thank you again, Jen, for your commentary.

    Guest (Timothy)December 23, 2015 at 1:01 pm

  3. I'm going through this right now, Jen.
    After enjoying 20+ years as a greeting card writer (and illustrator), I am broadening my writing horizons with a big assist from my friends at AWAI.
    While I continue to write product copy for the "social expressions" industry (think greeting cards, stationery, and gifts), I will also grow and diversify my income streams and client list by adding marketing copywriting to my skill set.
    2016 will be a landmark year for personal and professional reinvention!

    Michael RhodaDecember 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm

  4. Excellent post Jen. Short and straight to the point. Since I've begun perusing the many pages of AWAI I can tell its an org based on writers and their skills because many of the contributions are long winded and redundant. Just an observation, not to criticize but writers often tend to say the same thing over and over from nine directions. Sure, it depends on the subject matter, but your contribution was a pleasant exception that I hope to emulate in my own style once developed.

    Str8 UpDecember 23, 2015 at 1:47 pm

  5. Jen--Congratulations MOM. I started EMORY Medical School in 1960. After 50+ years in medicine, I am now trying to write 2 books and discovered AWAI. I now launching a whole new career in copywriting with lots to learn. I am really enjoying my writing but have yet to each a critical fund of knowledge. Nevertheless I forge ahead with no fear or doubt. I love my new challenge.
    Thank you for your sharing during this Christmas week. MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!
    Wm. Summerlin, MD

    Guest (Dr Bill)December 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm

  6. I have to tell you that is the best sweetest article.

    BJanDecember 23, 2015 at 5:39 pm

  7. From a place of sheer and utter brokenness, I, from the fetal position, reinvent Commitment. Commitment has always been a best friend of mine, needing nothing else, until tragedy, trauma and crisis hit my personal life, time and again, for the past five years.
    Grateful for the opportunity to read, and share, wisdom and experience with AWAI members....as long as I am allowed!
    Sometimes the very thing necessary to move on, is a Kick. Gracious Friends

    Guest (Phaedra)December 23, 2015 at 6:23 pm

  8. Hi Jen, As I read your post, I wondered what YOUR life must be like.
    Then voila! A paragraph addressing my inner thoughts. You're GOOOOD if you can do that!
    I'm 69. 3 months ago, my wife of 24 years passed away, here at home, in her own bed.
    I've been a chiropractor since we married in 1991. Now that she's gone I don't have the heart to do it anymore.
    But, ever the consummate artist, I've developed an utter passion for copywriting. I stokes my love for life.
    Thanks for all YOU do!

    Doc BDecember 23, 2015 at 7:12 pm

  9. I have really enjoyed your articles this week, Jen. They were very interesting and I love your style! Thank you.

    Colleen DawnDecember 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm

  10. 2016 is the year where I have positioned myself to invest in mentoring. And I'm looking forward for a transformation in my business. Being a solopreneur is filled with uncertainty and its very refreshing when an exoerienced mentor who is successful in his own right who has the business experience to back his reputation will guide me to experience business success. I'm happy to experience this fresh start and taking my business to the next level.

    RMCBRANCHDecember 23, 2015 at 9:56 pm

  11. Hi, Jen, I loved the idea for re-start... I myself have been caught in the web trying to survive in a different vocat

    InspireDecember 23, 2015 at 9:57 pm

  12. Dear Jen, I'm in a unique situation where our family of five are all starting new businesses and challenges at the same time. It's nice that we can encourage and understand how that is for each other.
    I am thrilled to have found AWAI and have embarked on Josh Boswell's Roadmap to Clients and the Accelerated course. I look forward to building a really good writing product and becoming a successful copywriter.
    Thank you for your article.
    regards, Bonnie

    Guest (Bonnie Mosley)December 23, 2015 at 10:21 pm

  13. I'm remembering many hours spent at the keyboard with a baby attached to my breast. Shuffle the pillows and keep on writing!

    DixieDecember 24, 2015 at 1:21 am

  14. "600,00 units"
    ...so is that "60,000 units" or "600,000 units"?
    No offense; just wanted to point out that error. Editor's eye, couldn't help it.
    Anyways, great examples; I really enjoy learning more about this stuff (even though I never played with any of them as a child and thus had no idea what they looked like until I searched them up on the internet).
    Good job on the article; it was very captivating.
    ~Amaryllis

    Guest (Amaryllis)December 24, 2015 at 5:27 pm

  15. Nobody has etched more sketches than I have; whence many have influenced the way I architecturally expand horizons for our greater good.

    But last Monday, upon finding out that I had NOT advanced as a short-listed finalist for Barack Obama's Presidential Library & Museum in Chicago, some horizons still seem regrettably inaccessible. Hence my need -- to once again -- to redefine what MATTERS most (literally) insofar as what's factored by light can square away the enormous energy yet tapped.

    Guest (Chris Morris)December 26, 2015 at 8:52 pm

  16. I belong to poetry.com and have been published with them. I believe my skills would be easily translated for greetings cards. How can you help me??

    Guest (Marlene)December 18, 2016 at 10:01 pm


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