How social media connects us

This is a much more personal post than I usually share. I have been thinking a lot about Joel Friedlander. If you are a writer, you may know him as someone who has provided incredible resources on book design and publishing over the years. He’s shared more than 2,500 blog posts and 22,000 Tweets exploring these topics.

He passed away last week.

When I started WeGrowMedia in 2010, he was one of the early people I connected with and who supported my work. His lifelong focus was how to make books beautiful. Here is a photo of Joel from 1978, making up letterpress forms:


Here he is planning a book with photographer Al Weber in 2009 (photo by TMillea):


It was around the time this photo was taken that Joel began his website. He started the blog in 2009 as a means to find more clients for his book design company. But in the 10+ years that followed, it grew into something so much more. He has helped thousands and thousands of writers in that time. This is how I knew him through social media posts, email, and webinars:


I first interviewed Joel for my own site in 2011, then again in 2012, and 2013. He was a part of my book launch for my book Be the Gateway in 2017. At the time, I analyzed the publishing process and wrote:

“Interior layout: This was one of the more stressful parts of the process, because it was an education for me to really notice how books are made. There are 1,000 things about book design that I have been exposed to throughout my life, but never truly noticed. I went through revision after revision here, ordering proof after proof at each stage. I also have to note the wonderful feedback that Joel Friedlander provided via email when he looked at the proof file for just a few minutes. His notes made me immediately regret not reaching out to him sooner. Next time!”

But sadly, there won’t be a next time for me collaborating with Joel. In a recent interview after Joel sold his company, he said: “I’m at the end of my work. I’m finished.” Of course, Joel’s work lives on in the lives on through the thousands of lives he has touched, including mine. I won’t ever look at book design the same way, thanks to him.

Through social media, Joel has been a part of my everyday life. I would see his profile photo again and again in small moments each week. Much like a coworker who works a few aisles away from you at an office, and you pass by in the hallway throughout the day. I know that social media can be complex for individual creators for so many reasons. But at times like this, I’m thankful that Joel went online in 2009, that he began blogging, sharing on social media, and connecting with other creators across the country, and across the world.

This is something that writers and creators teach me every day. Many of my current and former clients are launching books this spring and summer, including:

I follow what each of these writers each day on social media and newsletters. The effect is feeling they are a part of the fabric of my life. They are showing up to create, to share, to help, and to connect with readers in new and meaningful ways.

Thinking of these writers and Joel, I am reminded to continue honing the clarity that drives my work. I have written about this recently in my posts about my creative reset, and my Clarity Card process. These aren’t just things I write about, I work on them each and every day.

In June, I’m planning a new phase to my creative reset:

  • Returning to my studio full-time. This creates space for more videos and resources to create.
  • Opening to the draft of my next book, which I last opened a year ago.
  • Planning out the next season of my podcast.
  • Considering the “next phase” for my work. Spoiler alert: the basics will all remain the same, I truly love what I do. But I’m considering if there are new ways I can help writers and creators share their work with authenticity and effectiveness.

I’m curious, are you planning any new creative projects, or a new phase to your work? If so, click reply and tell me about it.