And it really pisses me off when people dismiss it as a stepping stone to "real writing".
Okay, for some people, maybe it is. Maybe they are just using it as a way of practicing writing with less pressure on them, with immediate feedback, whatever. There are some people who write both at the same time, who write fanfic for fun and profic for fun and profit.
But that's not me. I don't, and probably never will, want to write fiction professionally. It just doesn't interest me. At all.
What I get out of fanfic is not what I get out of writing origfic. Fanfic is a way for me to interact with characters I already love. It's a way of exploring them, getting at who they are, why they do what they do. It's getting more of canon, getting to explore more of these worlds. It's a way of exploring things TPTB don't, for time reasons, laziness, whatever.
It's a challenge, because you have these guidelines (canon) and you can choose to follow the ones that make sense and ignore the ones that don't, and there's something very intriguing about that challenge to me, and it's not the same thing as creating your own characters that you can bend and break to your will.
And it's not even just about what fanfic gives me that origfic doesn't. It's about the fact that I wouldn't want to make a job out of this stuff. I love it. But I love it as a hobby, and having to write fanfic to pay for next month's rent does not sound like fun in any way.