I look deep within conifers for little pockets of needles and twigs that are not damp and I also search for similar pockets in root balls, rock cavities, and the like. It may pay to start scrounging tinder before it rains, if you are out on a trip. Prepare to spend a lot of time coaxing the fire, feeding twigs at just the right moment, and gently blowing on the flames. A short length of rubber tubing is invaluable. It will take several minutes (half an hour or more), but you will eventually get to the point where you will achieve self-sustaining ignition.

Lastly, you can "cheat," and carry dryer lint, briquets, or whatever, up to and including Esbit or a canister stove. A friend of mine once got a fire started effortlessly, over the protests of the hypothermic victim we had just found, by opening a can of gelled alcohol, lighting it, and piling on slightly damp tinder. It did ignite, without any further attention - which was great, because we were quite busy with the victim.

You have framed the fire paradox quite precisely - when you need one, it will be difficult to light one. It is definitely an acquired skill. I used to be quite good at starting fires under adverse conditions, but years of carrying stoves and fool proof igniters has made me rather rusty.