I am skipping over the "writing the article" stage, which is always unpleasant and simply must be endured.
I find an encouraging realism in the notion that even after you've done it a zillion times, and built it into a world-class career as Fallows has, a certain phase of your creative process will always be unpleasant.
If I try to anatomize my own writing process along these lines, I'd say that I love conversing about what I'm working on, and I usually love rereading and editing. And yes, I sometimes hit that sweet spot where writing just flows for page after page, a pure feeling of movement-out-of-the-self that can pass for a definition of happiness. But at least once early in the task of writing, and often several times, there's a very unpleasant spot.
I've always read this unpleasantness as self-doubt. The writers-on-writing books blame this moment on our inner editor, and offer wise techniques for squelching this universal demon. Just write, they say. Anne Lamott has high praise for the "shitty first draft." Let your inner editor prejudge it as shit, but write it anyway.
But I think it's more interesting than that.
Here's the thing: the unpleasant moment doesn't happen when I'm writing in correspondence. A colleague's email may trigger an easy long response from me -- I can go on for pages -- but it all feels like part of a conversation, because I have a single reader in mind and feel his or her presence as I write. Like Fallows, I find that conversation about a topic I'm working on can be a delight. Not only that, but I'm actually smarter in conversation than when I'm writing alone. I have better ideas, make clearer connections, see what's important.
In some rare and happy cases, I discover that in the course of these emails I've actually written most of a publishable piece; glue a few emails together and I'm 90% done. I'd love to learn to control this process, so that all my writing gets done this way, but I suspect that these rare moments of grace are just that, gifts of a small-p providence that will not be taken for granted.
So I have to expect this unpleasant bit, when it's time to Actually Write. The critical voice of the inner editor is part of the unpleasantness; alone with my topic I feel stupider than I was when conversing about it. But there's also the existential oddness of the writing project: It's an act of communication, but to get it done you have to be alone, exposed to all that solitude entails. Writing for publication, I'm basically talking to myself and pretending that the whole world should be interested; in other words, I'm not much different from the angry drunk on the sidewalk, hurling his narratives at anyone passing by.
There's a moment, sitting down to write, where I feel like I'm pushing against my nature as an organism. Conversation has a long history and proven value in natural selection; it transmits knowledge, integrates different people's efforts, builds societies, and in the course of these tasks it makes us smarter. We tell ourselves that writing is just an extension of this process, but it's harder, less natural, more abstract. How do we trick ourselves to not notice this? How do we retain the ease of good conversation when we're basically talking to ourselves, while pretending that the whole world should care?