My algebra background: I've had 2 undergrad semesters of algebra, a reading course in Galois Theory, a graduate course in commutative algebra and one in algebraic geometry, and I've done (most of) MacLane and Birkhoff's Algebra on my own.
The problem is that I feel like I still don't have any idea how to do algebra. I do well in my classes and don't have any problem with most exercises in M&B I do. But my process consists pretty much entirely of fiddling around with symbols until I figure out how to apply theorems I know in a completely straightforward way. I'm able to do exercises from a book, but rarely able to prove theorems in the text on my own.
This is a complete contrast to how I feel in topology and analysis (not that I really know any topology or analysis), where I have a halfway decent intuition and really think I know why things are true (and moreover, why anyone should care). I'm able to prove theorems.
In topology and analysis, I am able to visualize things pretty directly in a way that I can get insight into how things work. For algebra, I have no picture. I've tried learning about Cayley graphs to visualize groups. I think these are neat, but I have yet to successfully apply any insight from them. I hoped learning about algebraic geometry would help me visualize rings. But the geometry in algebraic geometry is dictated entirely by the algebra. So how can you use geometry to help you with the algebra, when you have to do the algebra first to figure out what the geometry looks like? I don't get it.
So the question I'm trying to get at is: How do I develop some insight or intuition about algebra? I don't really know what form answers might take; maybe a reading suggestion, or just a general way to look at things. Maybe this isn't a good question, but I'm kind of at the end of my rope with this stuff.
A particular user on MathOverflow said he fell in love with algebra the first time he saw the axioms for a group. When I first saw the axioms for a group, I spent the next year trying to figure out why the heck anybody cared about groups (and frankly still only know this in a detached and academic way). So it's possible the only answer is: I'm barking up the wrong tree; algebra isn't for me and I should move on to something that comes more naturally.