Chaplaincy

Why Don't You Write Me

Connecting us across distances

Why Don't You Write Me Logo. White Background with a black rectangle in the middle with the text "Why Don't You Write Me"
‘I’m loving the project. It makes me want to be in touch with people and surprise them with a piece of art each month.’
Why Don't You Write Me is a postcard-writing, art and heritage project, for connection and community with the people you care about – wherever they are in place and (head)space.
It launched in 2020, and is for all students and staff, bringing art, history and reflection to our own families and communities in Edinburgh and beyond.
When you sign up, you receive a monthly bundle of beautiful postcards and notecards to send, a monthly gathering exploring connection, community and their challenges, and 'Write Back' from the WDYWM team. Subscriptions last six months and can be renewed. It is free for students, with a suggested donation for staff.
The project highlights Scottish artists like Angie Lewin, Catherine Forshall, and Jennifer Thomson, including artwork reproduced especially for this project. We partner with local artists, University departments, and community groups, to bring beautiful artwork and unique snapshots of Edinburgh heritage to your letterbox. WDYWM cards are sent all over the world: you can read stories from members in this feature in the Staff Bulletin, and Kitty’s reflections for the MindLetter on 18 months and 8,000 cards of the project.
Visit our website or scroll down to find out more, find us on social media @writemeuoe, and join the project as a student or member of staff.

 

Notes on Connection Across Distances

I have so enjoyed WDYWM - it has fostered such a lovely ritual of taking time to sit down and write to friends and loved ones around the world.’

During COVID-19, with its lockdowns, restrictions, and self-isolation, connecting to each other and the people we care about was more important than ever. Our forms of connection and community turned upside down. We experienced skin hunger – the deprivation of touch – alongside Zoom fatigue, from over-connection online.

University of Edinburgh Library. Architectural drawing by Sir Basil Spence, 1955. Courtesy of the Estates Department
University of Edinburgh Library. Architectural drawing by Sir Basil Spence, 1955. Courtesy of the Estates Department.

Covid highlighted a recognised loneliness and social isolation phenomenon. The Higher Education Policy Institute reports that almost 1 in 4 students are lonely most or all of the time. In Scotland, 10 percent of people over 50 – an estimated 218,000 – report the same. Meanwhile, those who care for others may feel touched-out, yet without closeness; hyper-in-touch, without connection. Many in our community are international students and staff, with family and friends living at great distances. As part of a 55,000 strong university, we may spend hours every day on our phones, have full inboxes, and walk down busy central Edinburgh streets – while feeling strangely dissatisfied. Likewise, we may find ourselves increasingly isolated or uncertain in our experience of life, views about key issues, and sense of belonging with others.

How do we reach each other, across distances of place and (head)space?

 

When We Put Pen to Paper

Photograph of a pen writing on a piece of white paper.

‘Thank you so much for the beautiful postcards these months. Even though we are not talking face to face, I still feel like I could say hello to you, to my friends around the world.’

Here’s one idea: WDYWM members tell us that the thump of the post through the letterbox is a highlight. With so much of our study, work, play, and critique taking place online, to send and receive something through the mail grounds us back in the physical world; and to send pieces of art and heritage grounds us in the long community of space and time. When we select a card, and feel it tangible in our hands, we picture it in the hands of the receiver. When we hold someone in mind, we remember that we too are held by others.

To put pen to paper is also to ask ourselves what we want to say. Sometimes we may not know; we may have even forgotten how to ask. But when we hold paper and pen in hand, and the curls, squiggles, and spikes of ink emerge from beneath our fingers, we remember that we are more than pixels and avatars on a screen. When we place ourselves on the page, we see ourselves and others more clearly.

 

Why Don’t You Write Me

Why don't you write me,

I'm out in the jungle,

I'm hungry to hear you.

Send me a card,

I am waiting so hard

To be near you.

 

Simon and Garfunkel, 1970

 

Why Don’t You Write Me is for the UoE community, and for your own communities and families in Edinburgh and beyond, to help connect us to ourselves and each other. Here’s what it looks like.

1. A monthly parcel in the post, containing five beautiful postcards and notecards. From botanical prints, to William Morris, to doodles from our own ThinSilence (Geoffrey Baines), the project also highlights Scottish artists like Angie Lewin, Jennifer Thomson, and Catherine Forshall, including artwork reproduced especially for this project.

Then it’s simple – write to someone, and put it in the post. There’s only one rule: send one of your postcards, each month, to someone who’s a UoE member or lives in Edinburgh. That could be your friend in another accommodation block, a member of staff in your department, or a colleague to say thank you for a job well done. Keep track of where you send your cards, whether in the UK or internationally, and let us know, for the map on our webpage.

 

2. Each month, we hold a Why Don’t You Write Me workshop. We share stories of connection, community, and their challenges, and explore practices of embodied writing, compassion, and mindful doodling. These alternate online / in-person in the Chaplaincy month-by-month, so that members across campus and studying abroad all have a chance to join.

 

3. Finally, there are some things that are better written than typed, better posted than emailed. If you feel like you have something to say, and no-one obvious to say it to, you can write to us, using your cards, and we will write back.

As Simon and Garfunkel sang, ‘a letter would brighten my loneliest evening’.

 

Partnerships and Collaborations

We collaborate with artists born in, living in or inspired by Scotland. Our current collaborations are with Catherine Forshall and Brigid Collins, bringing custom-made reproductions of their beautiful marine and botanical artworks to WDYWM members.

Some of our most popular cards come from a treasure trove of old photographs and architectural prints of the University of Edinburgh, found and digitised at the Estates Department. George Square, King’s Buildings, and Chrystal MacMillan were among the haul. Our team sleuths have dated these between the late 1950s and 1970s.

In 2022-23 we are partnering with Vintage Vibes, an award-winning service tackling loneliness and isolation among over-60s living in Edinburgh, to send 100 Christmas cards and 100 Easter cards from our members to theirs.

 

The Why Don’t You Write Me Team

Why Don’t You Write Me is led by Dr Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, and Associate of the Global Compassion Initiative. She writes the weekly MindLetter, which has over 600 subscribers across the University and is reposted fortnightly in the Bulletin. Alongside running the UoE’s mindfulness programme for students and staff, Kitty is an anthropologist, avid reader, and writer.

The Rev’d Geoffrey Baines is an Associate Chaplain, and Head of the Listening Service. He provides dreamwhispering – a talents-led journey exploring the questions Who is my True Self? and What is my Contribution? – and Mindful Doodling to all students and staff. He is also a freelance dreamwhisperer and illustrator. Since 2014, Geoffrey has written and doodled every day at thinsilence.org, and has published the colouring book Slow Journeys in the Same Direction, bringing his love of doodling and dreamwhispering together.

 

Why Don’t You Write Me is a rolling project, and you can sign up at any time.

 

FAQs

 

I like the sound of this. How do I book?

Click here to register if you’re a student, and book here for staff.

 

Do you post to students and staff currently living abroad?

Yes. We have previously posted bundles to Canada, the US, India, China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Romania, Denmark, you name it.

 

How much does it cost?

The scheme is free to students; for staff, there’s a suggested donation of £30 for six months of the scheme.

 

I'm a member of staff, and I’d love to join, but the suggested donation is too much for me at the moment. Can I make an alternative donation amount?

Please do. Email catherine.mcdonald@ed.ac.uk, and she will book you in manually and give you transfer details to make an alternative donation. No amount is too small, so if you’d like to join, please do.

 

I can't make all the monthly gatherings. Can I still sign up?

Yes! The gatherings are not mandatory - just here to inspire and support you when you can make them.

 

Will you really write back if I write to you?

Yes! We, like you, love post.

 

I’d like to send a WDYWM card to Friendly Classmate or Brilliant Colleague, but I don’t have their postal address. How do I get it to them?

Photograph of a red postbox beside a path and a park.

Address your card to:

 

Friendly Colleague/Brilliant Classmate

c/o Why Don't You Write Me

The Chaplaincy Centre

1 Bristo Square

Edinburgh EH8 9AL

 

…and we will forward it to them.